The songs play it. The movies portray it. Even our church services have their part to play. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Yeah, well what if it isn’t? For many people, holidays bring up painful memories.
Sore spots from childhood or the loss of loved ones hit hard during this sentimental season. While many people celebrate the joys of Christmastime, others suffer lonely holidays.
During one of the most desperate times of King David’s life, the anointed future king of Israel found himself running from two separate enemies—hardly a time to celebrate. With the Philistines to the west and King Saul to the east, a distressed David sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1–2).
David felt very alone.
His situation offers encouragement to us during lonely holidays.
You wake up to it each morning. It follows you as you go through your day. It’s waiting for you in every room and conversation. Your battle cleverly disguises itself in many forms.
Your battle appears as a person, or as money, or as a tense situation at the office.
But the reality is that the battle you face each day has another source. The fight that God’s people faced at Rephidim proved that point.
The battle is spiritual—and there’s only one way to win.
We’ve all experienced it, haven’t we? We buy a car and suddenly, we see our car’s model everywhere on the road. We notice what we have on our mind. This is true in all of life.
On a recent trip to Israel, one man on our bus mentioned he saw beehives everywhere. Really? Beehives? I had never noticed. He was a beekeeper. We see what we’re thinking about.
- As a woodworker, I notice furniture everywhere I go—whether it’s made well or not.
- My daughter always notices a person’s shoes first.
- A girl-crazy guy walks in a room and in five seconds has the most beautiful girl pegged.
What you focus on will be what you see. It’s how God made us—regardless of how we use that ability. What do you see in these key areas of your life?
- Your job
- Your spouse
- Your children
- Your parents
- Your church
- Your life in general
Be honest. When you think about each of these areas, are your initial thoughts positive or negative?
What do you see?
Some call it coincidence. Some call it Providence. But according to tradition, both the First and Second Temples (in 586 BC and AD 70) were destroyed on the same date in history. That begins this evening.
Tisha B’Av marks the 9th day of the month of Av—the fifth Jewish month. During the exile, the Jews instituted a fast to commemorate the Temple’s destruction. After they returned to Jerusalem, they asked God a question about Tisha B’Av:
Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years? —Zechariah 7:3
Their question made sense.
They had observed the fast in exile, but should they continue to fast on Tisha B’Av now that they were building the Second Temple? God’s answer to their question reaches beyond them to the heart of why we do what we do.
One question gets to the heart of our heart.
I recently upgraded my iPhone and had a problem transferring the data from my old backup to the new iPhone. So I called Apple.
As I talked to the tech during the data transfer, he really wanted to screen-share so he could see what was happening on my computer, but the connection wouldn’t work.
Because he couldn’t see my screen, he continued to ask me every minute or so what the status was on the progress bar. Finally, I said something like, “Look, asking me about it isn’t going to speed up the process. Feel free to work on something else, and I’ll let you know when it’s done.”
Did he think when it was done I would say nothing?
Then it struck me. We do the same with God.
If you’d like a journey of inspiration, pick up the brief Autobiography of George Muller. You’ll find yourself amazed at God and encouraged to pray more.
(Photo: George Muller)
More than once, I’ve read the journal of George Muller. I return to it when I need some encouragement to pray and trust God with the impossible.
After my last read, I decided it was time to write down some good takeaways from Muller’s life that I could apply.
I’ll share them with you.
Okay, let’s make a quick list. If you had to write down what you need, what would top your list? Let me take a stab at what you might write.
(Photo: courtesy of ooomf)
If you’re like most folks, your list of what you need may read something like this:
- I need a new iPhone, Android, techie-whatever.
- I need more money and more time.
- I need my spouse to listen to me.
- I need more respect at work.
- I need a friend.
What DO you need? Ask that question to ten different people, you’ll likely get eleven different answers. But your needs aren’t subjective.
God has revealed what you need.
We all pray for our children. We want them to do well in school, or to get a good job, or to stay healthy. But their greatest need for prayer is their spiritual lives.
The longer I am a parent, the more I see the truth in the Apostle John’s words:
I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. —3 John 4
If our children have a genuine walk with God, they will be better equipped to make wise choices throughout their lives. Our challenge, then, is how to pray for our children in this way.
When our daughters were only toddlers, Cathy and I participated an excellent parenting class that gave us a handout called: “How to Pray for Your Children.” We prayed through this list for years. In fact, as I read through each point today, I can remember specific instances in which God answered the prayers. He is still answering them.
I have edited the list and added some verses to it. I have also made a PDF you can download and print to keep in your Bible or prayer journal.
It’s never too late to begin praying for your children—and your grandchildren.
It is one of the greatest investments you will ever make into their lives.
You’ve heard the old cliché, “Prayer changes things.” Yeah, okay, but what about the times when it just flat doesn’t? What’s wrong?
Why doesn’t God answer your prayers? As I’ve searched the Scriptures, I have discovered at least 5 reasons.
In some cases, we are not waiting on God; He is waiting on us.
Most Americans find it difficult to identify with the Jews who rock before the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I know I did at first.
It seemed, well, just . . . odd.
Then I thought about my traditions. Are they any less bizarre?
Oddness just comes in different flavors. They’re called “traditions.”
- Jews pray with their heads covered; we take our hats off.
- Their prayers are public and loud and showy; ours are private and quiet and restrained.
- They rock back and forth and mumble from a book; we bow our heads, close our eyes and utter unrehearsed words.
It’s easy in the familiarity of our own traditions to shake our fingers at the oddities of others. Jews pray while rocking, Muslims kneel with their bottoms in the air, and Christians bow our heads and close our eyes.
Blend any tradition—bowing, standing, prostrating, rocking, kneeling or jumping—with no personal relationship with the true God, and it’s totally pointless.
Maybe we Christians should open our eyes during prayer for a change.