My last post was “discombobulated.” It was tough to publish, but it felt like there was something important in it all. The contrast between the brick mason’s story and my reality was edited and rewritten. Deleted and reworked. I think it’s because, I’m struggling between what I want to say, and what God is accomplishing in my heart. As I look at ways the brick mason and other events are opening my heart, my prayer is more of Him and less of me.
In my short visit with the brick mason , I learned he was having a devastating day, in the midst of chronically difficult life circumstances. Obviously, he believed heaven was real and all around us, and God was good to his family — even in death, illness, poverty and pain. He openly shared his experience and his faith with us as comfortably as he discussed concrete.
I’m not minimizing or glamorizing his situation. Either would be the wrong focus. At times I’ve even wondered if he was “for real.” I decided to let go of my cynicism and my need to know all the facts, and to ask God what He has to say to me about it all. I know when really terrible things happen in my life, my heart trumps my head, and I sort of feel entitled to something better — like there’s been some mistake.
Knowing the stories and promises of God, why is my faith not more like the brick mason’s? Why am I not thankful and actively believing that God is with me (Matthew 28:20) and acting on my behalf for good in every detail of my life (Romans 8:28)? Joseph had one “bad” thing happen after another but said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) The same is true today.
Taking the whole experience of the brick mason at face value, I am deeply moved by how the brickmason’s reality of God’s goodness and provision in his every day life, totally overwhelmed the current situation. He knew his daughter was dead and his family had an increasingly more difficult road ahead. Still he said, “I don’t know why God is so good to me.” Who he knew God to be, and what He knew Jesus had done for him was more real and important to the brick mason than anything that was happening. That’s abundance I want to emulate.
Someone asked me what I thought of the movie, “Heaven is for Real.” I’m no Bible scholar, and I understand the concerns around how God could allow 4 year old Colton to sit on Jesus’ lap during his surgery, when the Bible says Moses couldn’t look at God and live. I know Hollywood could have sensationalized a good story once they had the rights to it, and the Burpo family had much to gain in publishing it. I’ll let others debate all that.
To me, it seems totally credible that a loving God gave a scared, sick little boy a glimpse of heaven while he was still on earth — and that God wanted the story to be spread to others. Hasn’t He ever done something similar for you — where you were overwhelmed with His majesty? Or His protection? If the movie helps people to see that heaven is real; that our lives and prayers need to be more focused on heaven than anything on this earth (Philipians 3:19-20) — because God is in heaven and we will one day live there with Him — then it is a GREAT movie that points us toward God and a richer, more abundant life!
We saw another movie, “God’s NOT Dead.” In it Josh, a freshman philosophy student, takes a stand and risks ridicule, relationships, failure and his future (that pretty well covers the things of this world), because he will not assert, “God is dead” as his teacher desires. He feels God wants him to do something for Him, so he listens and obeys. He agrees with God’s will. He takes some losses in the process, but the movie has a happy ending. Even if it didn’t, I think Josh would be glad he chose to trust God and His goodness. I think he would say all is well when I do God’s will, and Life is Abundant beyond all the other stuff!
I’ve been sharing how our little group has been learning to pray more effectively. In preparing for our study, God led me to the Lord’s Prayer. (Matthew 6:9-13) We sing it; we pray it. It comforts us, but what are we really saying?
First, Jesus told his disciples to say, “Our Father who is in Heaven. It seems heaven was important as a focus beyond the earth they could see and touch. Heaven is our eternal home where God dwells. All of us feel the daily pull of sin, the world and the devil on earth. We are tempted to make WAY more plans for this short life than we do for eternal life. When that is our focus, we miss His abundance.
Heaven is for real. God is there — and He is here with us. We get glimpses of heaven in the almost but not yet experience of this life on earth, because He walks and talks with us every day. Heaven is more real and more lasting than the chair that holds you up right now. It seems we need to pray fully embracing the fact that heaven is our real home, if we want abundant life.
Secondly we earnestly pray, “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” right until the moment when God’s will interrupts our own… What are we really saying in these familiar words? I’ll paraphrase Michael Youssef, “King Jesus, I want your priorities to be the preoccupation of my entire heart and mind — my life. Take over everything!” Sounds almost like the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37).
When we pray, so often we focus predominantly on our own plans, needs and passions. See my long list of thoughts at the beginning of this post. They have led to a lot of stress and confusion for me lately. I guess you could say I’ve been discombobulated! God cares about our lives and wants us to talk to Him about all the details (1 Peter 5:7). The point is that word preoccupation — our focus and priority.
My mind has been dangerously consumed with my very real human needs, to the detriment of my preoccupation with God. If our perceived needs become the increasing focus of our lives (in good times or bad), soon we won’t pray at all. Not as God intends. Instead of “your will be done,” our “prayers” become God give me what I need and want. I know what’s best. My will be done.
My final take aways from this process of looking at how I’m living my life and contrasting it with the brick mason’s story that depict a taste of abundant life and understanding God’s will are these:
Prayer is not only something you do, it’s who you are and the way to live Life. And when in doubt, like they taught us in Sunday School — the answer is Jesus. Focus on Him. He must be my reality. My preoccupation. My number one priority. That IS the Abundant Life He offers. Mattew 6:33 is often in my mind. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you as well.” And John 15:4 “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
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