Romans 9:26

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

I prefer the King James Version of the Bible. It is what I grew up with and not only am I used to the archaic wording I find poetry in that odd rhythm when read aloud. It does make understanding some of the passage a challenge at times, but that also makes me think about what I am reading and what it really means to me.

As part of my study I am reading the Bible from a list that was put together by my church and which we then discuss at our Wednesday evening home group. In reading these preselected passages I regularly find that those passages either apply to my current life situation or make me stop and think about something I have not questioned in the past.

Romans 9:26 is one of those passages that made me think about prayer and asking God to solve some problem in my life.

As a child I was told not to pray for “things” but rather to pray for the solution to the problem. One example of how this works happened when I was about 11 years old or so. I wanted a bicycle. My own bicycle not a “GIRLS” bike handed down from my sister who was 6 year older!

My mother told me to pray not for a bicycle but for right transportation since my plan, in all probability, would not be nearly as good as God’s plan. If I limited my prayer for what my limited imagination could conceive then some unknown blessing of God’s might be missed.

Right or wrong, that has been my method of prayer ever since; don’t pray for my car to be fixed or pray for it to be replaced, rather pray for guidance in how I am to handle transportation. Every time I have limited my prayer I have gotten that limited answer, but every time I have asked for guidance to a solution God has given me a much better answer than I would have imagined.

For this reason the highlighted section of Romans 9:26 really stuck home for me.

“for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us”.

This simple passage supports what my mother taught me as a child – don’t pray for a bicycle, pray for right transportation and see what God leads you to. She didn’t expect God to drop a moped on the front porch, but he might just lead me to a job cutting someone’s grass and payment might be a used moped. Much more than I would have thought possible.

In this case a family friend offered me a used bicycle that their son, who was just starting college, did not want any more. I had to use money saved from birthdays, allowance, and odd jobs to put new tires on it to get it back on the road, but it was a BOY’S bike and as nice as all my friends.

Would I rather have had a moped (which in the late 1950s I could have legally driven)? Heck yes, but just being able to be with my friends was enough. I have used this method of prayer ever since and I never ceased to be amazed by the ingenious methods God uses to supply me.

I don’t know what God’s plan is for me but I do know that His plan will turn out to be so much better than I can imagine right now and that I will be amazed. When will God show me? Once again I can’t predict when God will show me the solution but I can wait secure in the knowledge that as long as I listen and take the next step as he presents it, I will end up where He want’s me with all the blessings He has already prepared for me and has waiting for me.

Revelations 21:4

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and he will dwell with them and they shall be his people and God himself shall be with then and be their God.

Our church has a set of morning readings that many of us use and then discuss at home groups. Since we are at the end of this series we are reading selected passages from The Revelation of St. John the Divine and this quote was part of this mornings readings.

I have always limited my appreciation of Revelation to the end of times and not considered that it might have a greater meaning. Perhaps as we grow with God and give more of our lives to Him we experience elements of the descriptions of Revelations inside ourselves.

In the disaster that my life has become I was humbled enough to not just pray for God’s guidance and help but to actually beg, “I can’t do this, carry me”. Within a few minutes I could feel that my deep depression had been lifted and while I still experience a normal sense of sadness from time to time, that overwhelming depression has been completely lifted.

Revelations 12:4 has come to have a broader meaning to me. It is no longer limited to the end of times but rather symbolizes a personal spiritual end of times where I have let go of some of the worldly anchors that kept me from a closer connection with God. Sometimes I get so bound up in the day-to-day effort of living that I lose sight of God’s guiding hand and I begin to think; “I’m doing all this”.

Giving up my false belief that I am in control and accepting that only God is powerful enough to control my life opens me up to the new life described in Revelation where God wipes away all my tears and dwells with me and I can experience his love and peace in an immediate and person way that pretending I am in control blocks.

As I began to understand that this applies to me right now today and not in some far off future I felt the things that were troubling me lose their power to disturb my confidence in God and his working in my life. I still have to do the footwork, but God has a plan and all I have to do is listen and take the next step as he shows it to me.

The book of Job

Job is beset by many trials sent by the Devil to prove Job’s steadfast love for God and God allows it. In telling the story there are many places that Job seems to be angry with God. He may well be, but I read these examples differently:

“Does it please you [God] to oppress me,
to spurn the work of your hands,
while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?” Job 10:3

 
“Surely, O God, you have worn me out;
 you have devastated my entire household.” Job 16:7

 
“He [God] throws me into the mud,
and I am reduced to dust and ashes.
I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.” Job 30:19-20

 
“Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
I sign now my defense – let the Almighty answer me;
let my accuser put his indictment in writing.” Job 31:35

 
“As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice,
the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul…” Job 27:1

 
“…then know that God has wronged me
and drawn his net around me.
Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response;
 though I call for help, there is no justice.” Job 19:6-7

In reading the book of Job I found not a angry dialog blaming God for his troubles, rather a crying out in pain asking God, “Why me? What have I done to deserve this”.

Many times we just don’t understand what God’s plan for us is and the course of events seems designed to make us unhappy and to hurt us. How are we to bless his name when everything in our lives seems turned against us?

The big lesson of Job for me is that it’s OK for me to be angry about what is happening in my life. It’s OK for me to call out to God – I love you, I believe you want the best for me, I know that you have prepared a place for me that will fill all my needs; BUT why must I suffer through all this miserable stuff to get there?

I have to face my anger to let it go. I have to face it to understand that I am not really angry with God; my anger is with the circumstances and is based in fear and impatience. Fear that all the problems and issues in my life will be permanent and impatience because I want God’s blessing and healing now!

God may explain why he has chosen this path for me but maybe not, that’s his decision and while I may not like it, I have no choice but to accept it since everything that happens is his will not mine anyway. I know that if I don’t find acceptance I just make myself miserable while things work out the way God wants anyway!

I’m beginning to think that many times the trials and tribulations in my life are not about me, they are about someone else and I’m just collateral damage. Just as I might do everything right and still get hit by the idiot who runs the red light; their bad actions impact my life. So why would God allow those kinds of disruptions in my life? Could just be that the other person needs to see the devastation their actions caused to learn their lessons? Could just be that the people in my life need to take care of me to learn their lessons too?

But what about me?

Maybe I need to learn that not everything that happens to me is personal and aimed at me, I’m just not that important. Maybe I need to soldier on as a lesson to the people who see me. Or, just perhaps I need to soldier on as a lesson to me in loosing my anger and impatience?

 

Now that I’ve gotten my rant at God out of my system I would like to ask one blessing from Him. Please tell me what the plan is so I can conform my actions to it and skip all the painful floundering around. I promise you have grown me past the place where I need pain to teach me Your lessons. Please tell me which lesson is for me so I can “do my homework” and learn what you want me to learn without all the excess drama and turmoil.

Please?

Of course, my final words to God are: Never the less, thy will be done.

Accepting Jesus

In my growth I have talked to several pastors, one of them calmly accepted my explanation that I never “accepted” Jesus as my personal savior as an adult. I grew up with that concept and it seems to me I have always known and accepted Jesus.

A second pastor left me with the impression that if I couldn’t point to a single epiphany of accepting Jesus that, in his opinion, I had not made a real and sincere acceptance. I suspect that the second pastor’s attitude was shaped by Acts 9:3-20 where Saul is confronted by Jesus who asked “Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?” And the passage continues with Saul’s journey to Damascus and his conversion with the help of Ananias.

This has become the model for many Christians, and far too many think that the single moment of epiphany is the only “true” form of finding Christ.

I believe that acceptance of Jesus takes place in the heart because you allowed Jesus in, recognized him if you will. Whether that took place slowly, little by little over years or in a single defining moment is immaterial and only God can judge the completeness and the sincerity of your acceptance. God dwells in the still small voice just as much as in the burning bush and just as not all of the Israelites were privileged to see the burning bush, they believed in God just as sincerely as Moses.

The simple declaration: “I believe in God and that His son Jesus died to cleanse me, personally and individually, of my sins” is to me a complete acceptance of Jesus in my life. While different churches may have special ceremonies to mark that declaration they are just that; commemorations of an event that happen long before within the celebrant’s heart.

The church I was raised in did not practice actual baptism but rather an ongoing spiritual baptism. In my early 50s I was baptized in the Lutheran church and I did it on faith, not really understanding why it was necessary. One thing that helped me decide to do it was a statement by the pastor that, at least in part, it was a public declaration of my faith in God and Jesus Christ.

I believed then and now that making that public declaration was a significant part of defining myself, of who I am and how God expects me to conduct myself in the world. I wear a small gold cross on a neck chain; not to tell other people who I am but rather as a reminder when I put it on and as I notice it during the day of who I am what God expects of me.

That cross is on my mind right now because I just had the bale, the part the chain threads through, fixed after several years of not having the money to repair it. In hindsight, I think I should have had it fixed and let something else wait. Now that I am wearing it again, I realize how much I just wearing it is a reminder to me to try and do what Jesus would in every situation.

As children we tried to act in such a way that our parents would be proud of us. As Christians, in much the same way, we should try to act in such a way that God our loving father will be proud of us. And it’s OK not to do that perfectly every time, God understands that you are a human being and sees your heart felt attempt to live that up to that standard as success!