Nudgings #40 - Psalm 131 Prayer Response

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My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131:1-3, NLT)

My prayer:
Pride is a part of me. Guard my heart Lord and keep me close, for I know you “oppose the proud but give grace to the humble.” I want and need you in my life—more than anything.


Haughty eyes . . . I have them. Forgive me God. Help me to not look down on anyone with criticism, judgment, or disdain. Give me eyes of love. Help me to remember how you see me . . . and may your kindness, mercy and grace be the lens through which I view the world around me.


Keep my eyes fixed on you Jesus. Steady me as the world of science, media, culture, entertainment, economics and politics swirls. Keep me from being caught up in it all. I am not my infantile urges. My peace is found in Jesus. He is my life, my growth, my maturity, my identity and my help.


I am wholly devoted to the Father who loves me, provides for me, guides me and cares for me—completely.


In You alone I put my hope and trust.
Amen.


Nudgings #39 - Cling to Jesus

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I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely. (Psalm 63:8, NLT)

The other day I spent over two hours watching a power company worker climb and trim a huge tree. Wow. I can’t speak for the climber, but for me, just watching it all was an amazing, interesting, challenging, adventurous, nerve-racking and scary experience.

The climber used a harness, carabiners, ropes, two flip lines and a set of spikes on his feet to hold himself and his heavy chainsaw to that tree. At one point I saw the climber’s spikes slip, but the worker didn’t fall because his flip line and harness held him fast. The tree stood tall and strong, and as long as the climber clung to it . . . he was safe.

In Psalm 63 we find King David (a person just like you and me) in the midst of an amazing, interesting, challenging, adventurous, nerve-racking and scary experience––life.

And what did he do? He held on to the One holding him.

“I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.” (vs. 8)

So, that’s what I will do. I will cling to the mighty Tree of Life who is holding me––Jesus, the one who died upon a tree.


Grow

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Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days . . . Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. — John Wesley


It Went So Fast

Here it is, graduation season once again. It is a time for celebration and reflection. Here is a piece I wrote a few years ago about how precious and fleeting our lives are. I pray it is a blessing to you. 

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IMG_2001This moment contains all moments. 

                        ― C.S. Lewis

The other day I taught my final Senior Seminar class of the semester. With the end of the school year in sight it is interesting to hear college students say things like, “I can’t believe that my student teaching experience is almost over,” or “I can’t believe that I am graduating in just a few days. It went so fast." 

It went so fast? Really?

Student teaching generally comes at the end of an Education Major’s college experience and is sixteen grueling weeks of early mornings and late nights, scores of assignments and hundreds of lesson plans. It is the culmination of the four-year experience that is known as college.

Four years . . . and it went so fast?

Completing student teaching and graduating from college are significant occasions in life, hurdles to clear and milestones to achieve. They represent those challenges in life that exist as big, scary, anxiety-laden question marks, that in the moment, we just want to “get through” or “be done with.” But then suddenly, much to our surprise, they are . . . done.

When the goal is achieved and the challenge is behind us, we are left with the experience, the fun, the friendships, the memories—and the sense that it all went so fast.

It is times like these that resonate with the psalmist’s ominous words, “Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (Ps. 39:5, ESV)

A mere breath? Is there really such a thing? A breath is a small, brief and passing eventbut oh so important.

Google says that the average person takes 24,000 breaths per day.  That is a lot of breaths, surely more than enough, you would think. But try holding your breath for a minute and you soon realize that every breath counts.

Breaths happen quickly, numerously, and without notice. But the brief second that a breath takes does not lessen its value or importance.

Much like breaths in the midst of breathing, the moments of life, albeit meaningful, slip away subtly, silently and unnoticed. Our adventures, struggles, experiences, emotions and relationships are nuanced through things like perspective and hindsight and then meld and morph into a nostalgic longing we refer to as, “the good old days.”

It's ironic, but even the young long for the good old days. Andy, from The Office, says it well,

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

Regardless of whether it happened last month, last year, or a decade ago—as we reflect back on those good old days, we find ourselves saying of life, “It went so fast.”

It is here that we experience a mix of melancholy and regret—a feeling that something significant happened and yet, we missed it.

But we didn’t miss it, we lived it. Or did we?

This quandary leads me to the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90. In vs. 10 he reflects back on his life and says,

The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

His words are startling. Moses spent forty years shepherding goats in anonymity and then another forty years wandering the desert with God’s people. Over his 120 year life span, he was a prince, a leader, a prophet and a deliverer. He was married, had children and grandchildren, took a stand against evil, stood on Holy ground, and walked and talked with God.

Moses lived a long, full and storied life, and yet we find him looking back with a sigh saying, “Wow, it went so fast.”

If he felt that way, what hope do we have?

Two verses later (vs. 12), we find in Moses’ prayer the answer to this dilemma,

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

What does it mean to “gain a heart of wisdom”?

Wisdom comes from God. It is the good, helpful, guiding, life-giving way to act, think and live. It is God’s mind and the Holy Spirit’s prompting in our being and doing. It’s the way to live well, appreciate what matters most and take nothing for granted—not even a single breath.

Maybe gaining a “heart of wisdom” is liken to knowing you are in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.

So how do we gain this heart of wisdom?

Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days aright”.

To “number our days” is to recognize the immense value in the current moment. Upon this writing, the calendar tells me that today’s date is Wednesday, May 2, 2018. This date on the calendar is so much more than a number. There has never been a May 2, 2018, and there never will be again. Yesterday (the past) is gone and there is no guarantee of tomorrow (the future).  Today (the present) is all each of us have, and another word for present, is gift.

Each day is a gift.

God holds the gift of a day in high esteem. So much so that He initiates each one with hope, forgiveness and love. His mercies are new every morning and are as breathtaking and life-giving as a sunrise.

God gives us sustenance for each day’s journey. He feeds our body and soul with “daily” bread—with Jesus, who is our “hidden manna” (Rev. 2:17). And as we journey, God goes with us. On the path of life, we are to rely upon God and the Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in us, as we live every minute of the day.

David Roper says, “Time flies and so do we.” This is a hard truth that should cause us to live mindfully and carefully.

To “number our days aright” is to live them well and with purpose, and that begins with loving God and loving those around us. When we do this we can savor those moments, relationships and experiences that fly by so quickly.

Days and breaths are too numerous to count, but both are so important. Don't wish them away or waste them. Number them aright, not by counting them, but rather, by making them count.

For you can be sure that the day, the event, the challenge, the goal, the dream, and even the four-year college experience, will be over and done with before you know it, and you will find yourself saying,

“I can’t believe that I am graduating in just a few days. It went so fast.”


Nudgings #38 - Eternity

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God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NLT)

For now we see through a glass, darkly … (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV)

I don’t understand all this “eternity” talk . . . but then again maybe I do, sort of. Eternity means forever, and forever includes tomorrow, and I spend a lot of time thinking about, wondering about and unfortunately, worrying about tomorrow. And I know you do too.

All humans have “eternity” in their hearts and minds. Just look at the way we all check the weather. The news stories and interest articles that catch and keep our attention are all about what is coming—what might be. And for all of us, at one time or another, things don’t look too good—in fact, they look dark. So what are we to do with this “eternity” in our hearts?

The wisdom literature of the Old Testament tell us to:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV)

And Jesus, as he speaks to Jairus, a desperate father in the New Testament, says to us:

Don’t listen to them; just trust me. (Mark 5:36, MSG)

This “eternity” thing is in us, and way beyond us. We get it, but we don’t, and this place of tension and unease leaves us in a difficult place. What are we to do? Like the Apostle Paul, “we see through a glass, darkly.” He had eternity in his heart too, so I’m going to follow his lead. He says:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV)


Boldly

[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:15-16, NLT)

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Jesus made a way for us to pray—and lift our lives and our needs to the Almighty God—at all times. Prayer is not just what we do before meals or during a certain part of a church service, but it is to be who we are as Christ-followers. We are to be known as those “who call upon the Lord.”

The Apostle Paul tells us to, “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Eph. 6:18, NIV)

Don’t let the Enemy dupe you into thinking that God doesn’t want to hear from you because of your sins and failures. Jesus paid our debt, He made a way so that we can come boldly to the Lord and call upon Him for help, care, strength and power in our lives. God is not looking for fancy words or a perfect performance, His ear is attuned to those who ask, seek and knock. He wants to hear from your heart. 

Pray at all times—as you walk, work, worship, go to a quiet place and gather with others—and do it boldly in Jesus’ Name.

Here are a couple of great worship songs to sing and pray to the Lord:

 


I Prayed For You Today

Screen Shot 2022-04-30 at 10.47.48 AMDear Friends, 

I prayed for you today. The days fly by and the tyranny of the urgent robs us of the greatest privilege and responsibility that we have as followers of Jesus —to pray for one another. So, I prayed for you today.

Speaking of prayer, James the brother of Jesus says, 

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. (James 5:16-18, NLT)

Rain?  Rain represents life. Without water there is no life. In just a couple of sentences James equates the greatest of prophets, Elijah, who was God’s Word and presence to the people (before Jesus), with life (rain) and prayer.

Prayer in Jesus’ Name = Life. 

Prayer isn’t just a blessing we pronounce before a meal to express our gratitude. It’s not just a thing we do to bookend a religious service or to close out a graduation ceremony. It is life or death. The mention of rain or no rain is a nice and tangible way to talk about the serious issues of life and death, and the wonderful result of rain (life) was produced by the prayers of Elijah. 

Prayer was and is the difference; it is the catalyst, it is the means that God has given his people to call upon Him for help. Jesus came so that we might have access to the Father—so that we can pray and experience life.

The power of prayer—calling upon the Name of the Lord—is an ever-present and undeniable thread that runs throughout the Word of God. The great preacher and Christ-follower, Samuel Chadwick, says it this way,

“There is no power like that of prevailing prayer, of Abraham pleading for Sodom, Jacob wrestling in the stillness of the night, Moses standing in the breach, Hannah intoxicated with sorrow, David heartbroken with remorse and grief, Jesus in sweat of blood. Add to this list from the records of the church your personal observation and experience, and always there is the cost of passion unto blood. Such prayer prevails. It turns ordinary mortals into men and women of power. It brings power. It brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God.”

I prayed for you today. 

Ryan

Attached is a five minute clip of a time of praise and worship to the Lord that Becca and I were privileged to lead at last week’s prayer gathering. Be blessed!

 

 


Nudgings #37 - Holy Saturday

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There isn’t much written in the Bible or in the history books about Holy Saturday—the day between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. It is a backwards day, a hopeless day—an evil day. Its silence screams things like: hate, loss, war crimes, hyperinflation, malignant, shame, “there’s nothing more we can do,” good-bye and Jesus is dead.

And then the angel says to the women at the tomb and to you and me . . . 

“Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” (Luke 24:5-6, NLT)

Let us be reminded that the suffering only lasts for the night. The darkness of Holy Saturday will end—evil spelled backwards is live—and joy comes in the morning. 

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, NLT)

Let the backwards silence of Holy Saturday be drowned out by the One who said,

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)

Jesus is Risen!


Nudgings #36 - But Now . . . Follow Me (Easter Poem)

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Go, tell his disciples and Peter, . . . (Mark 16:7, NIV)

But Now . . . Follow Me
by Ryan M. Roberts

Where Jesus walked, the disciples followed;
But not all the way.
“Where I go now, you can’t. But later, ...”
Was all that He would say.

After midday prayers, Peter’s words rang out,
“No matter what or where or who;
You are mine, and I am yours.”
He said, “I will die with you!”

Amid friends huddled ‘round the fire that night;
“Hosannas!” gleamed in memory.
With hopes high, but resolve low,
The glow faded into Gethsemane.

They watched with the Christ in darkness,
But their prayers turned quickly to sleep.
And Peter’s vow, though earnest,
Was more than he could keep.

He drew his sword at the gleam of the torch,
But the Lord said, “No more of this!”
Jesus touched and healed His enemy;
And was led away, betrayed by a kiss.

Peter followed Him from a distance;
Keeping warm by the fire of his foe.
When asked, “You’re with Jesus, yes?”
Three times his response was, “No.”

With the lies came a rooster’s crow.
The look, a whip, the crown, a hill,
A cross, the cry, a spear thrust forth;
The King of Kings to kill.

Three days passed, Peter sat alone;
The guilt and regret—his choice.
Now what? Now where? Now who?
“He’s gone!” Peter leapt at Mary’s voice.

He ran to the tomb, bent low and went in,
Echoes, predictions, rags filled the space.
“Tear down this temple and in three days it will rise.”
Peter left, wonder full on his face.

There were sightings and sayings that, “He is alive!”
Stories no book could contain.
Yet ashamed, Peter watched the Christ from afar;
He should laud, but his failures remained.

Peter said to his friends, “Let’s fish,” and they went,
To row and to cast was no chore.
The fish, they were few, but the company good;
Then they heard a voice from the shore.

Jesus was there, by the fire, cooking food.
He said, “Come my friends, let’s eat.”
Peter pledged all his love—heart, mind and soul,
Jesus smiled and said, “Feed my sheep.”

“Your own efforts and failures, left you lost and in chains,
Through my wounds and my death you are free.
Where I went, you could not go on your own,
But now . . . in my power, follow Me.”