PRAYER, FAITH AND SLOT MACHINES


SLOT     A casino is an interesting place to learn about prayer. Walking around in the twilight darkness, you see basically three types of players. First, are the drifters. These folks drift from machine to machine, watching others play until they see multiple players have tried the same machine with no luck. Then they move in. They are looking for the quick, easy score with the least investment. They figure, after all that play, it will pay off big for them. Next, you’ll find the vacillators. These are the ones that the drifters follow most frequently. They will play on one machine for a short period of time, then move on to another, hoping that the other machine will pay out bigger and more often. Finally, you have the homesteaders. These rugged individuals sit down in front of one machine and play until they get tired. If they lose, they keep putting in more. They are not going to give up until they hit the jackpot. They may lose all they have, but they will never give up.
In the old days, before the electronic slot machine, a player would put in the coins he wanted to bet and pull the handle. He would watch the tumblers spin in unison and stop, one by one, bells would ring and lights would flash when a jackpot was won. Coins would come spitting out into the tray at the bottom. Instant gratification. He could keep playing, or place his winnings in paper buckets and take them to the cashier. Or, he would watch the tumblers spin in unison and stop, one by one, and nothing happened. He would either drift, vacillate, or homestead, depending on his personal inclination. Now, most of the machines are electronic, with few, or no, coins involved, no handle action and no waterfall of coins on payout. The machine tells him how many coins he’s won and, when he’s ready to leave, his payout is received in a bar coded receipt which he can redeem at an ATM. He can still win or lose in much the same way he always could, but now it is more private and involves less human contact.
People tend to treat faith and prayer in much the same way as going to a casino. They are initially “in it to win it.” They enter into prayer with their pockets full of faith. They believe that all things are possible. They pray expecting. Or, do they all. As in a casino, you have three groups of pray-ers. Drifters, vacillators and homesteaders.
Prayer drifters tend to watch for the newest, or latest and greatest, prayer and faith teachers to tell them how to get immediate results. They watch, they listen to CD’s and read all sorts of books, trying to gain the knowledge of just the right formula to make God do just what they want. If that person’s ideas don’t work right away, they write them off as a fraud and move on to the next. They drift from teacher to teacher, from evangelist to faith healer. They never find a shortage of new ideas to try but never stick with anything.
Prayer vacillators find some success in their efforts. These are the ones who have “faith of a mustard seed,” but like to spread their faith seed. They will pray about this or that for a while, in earnest and fully believing that God will answer their prayers. After a while, they decide that God has heard their prayers and He is working on it, so they move on to something else. They may, or may not, come back to it again because “God’s ways are higher than our ways,” and He knows what He is doing, so they no longer press the issue. “It will all work out in God’s timing and I have more pressing issues at the moment,” they say to themselves. When God does answer vacillators, they are pleasantly surprised but caught off guard none the less. Yes, they were praying in faith believing, but history had taught them no expectancy. Their prayers had been a pacifier to calm them in times of trouble.
Prayer homesteaders, or, as they are known in Christian circles, the intercessors, are those who are in it for the long haul. They are determined to make their voice heard by God. They will not rest until they are absolutely sure that God has heard, and responded, to their plea. They rarely pray for their own benefit, but for the health, finances, safety, peace or salvation of others. They are relentless and, most usually, tireless in their efforts. They ask, they seek the scriptures for answers, they knock on heaven’s door until the doors and windows of heaven are opened wide. The answer is not always what they expected, but it is an answer, which they believe is directly from God, and that is what they were praying for, believing for and expecting, so they are rarely, if ever, disappointed by prayer. With every answer comes more faith and expectancy.
Jesus spoke about this with his disciples when discussing prayer in Matthew 7:7-11:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Also in Luke 11:5-10:
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
We all have, or will, fit into one of these three categories at some time or another. We may begin as drifters, looking for the easy way to God, but as our relationship with Him grows, we will pass through vacillation and into homesteading. As we grow in our faith, we find it is less about what God can do for us, and more about what He has done. It is more about believing, knowing and trusting. It is more about Him and less about us.
There is, unfortunately, one other group of people. These are the ones who never enter the “casino.” They never take the chance to find out what faith in God and His grace are all about. They will always be waiting for some “Prize Patrol” to show up out of the blue and change their lives for no apparent reason, even if they never entered the sweepstakes.
© Simply Consider This, 2014.

COMMANDMENTS


mirror image

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And, “Love your neighbor as yourself.

For centuries we have been reading and quoting these two ‘commandments’ and that is fine. One should, above all else, love God first and foremost. One should also love their neighbor— ‘neighbor’ being one’s fellow man—no matter who that might be. There is also a third part to these ‘commandments’, which is grossly overlooked. This third part is the last two words. “…as yourself.”

We talk about the love God has for us and how this should be reciprocated. We talk about how we should love the sinner (which is anyone and everyone) but hate the sin. We talk about loving our enemies, even if we don’t like them, which almost seems like an oxymoron. We talk about showing the love of God, letting God’s love flow through us, being an example of God’s love to others, and countless other Christian clichés about loving others, but we, and those who instruct us, forget one tiny detail. If we don’t love ourselves, how can we love others?

The “normal” answer for this is – once we accept Jesus as our personal Savior and truly love God with all we are, then that love will permeate our being and flow out of us to others. That still doesn’t account for the fact that we find everything about ourselves to be hideous and repugnant. We still need to find some way to forgive ourselves for what we may have done in the past and accept the person we have, or will, become. That is the one thing that is not taught in our churches. “If God can forgive me, why can’t I?”

Yes, there are scriptures to help with this, such as, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1) But that is taken out of context. The condemnation referred to here is man being condemned by God for sin. Once the gift of salvation is accepted, God grants a ‘pardon’ for our sins and wipes the slate clean of any record of sin. The sin stain is gone and we now appear before God as ‘spotless.’ But, when we look in the mirror, we still see the same person with all of our character flaws, past sins, evil desires and so on.

We can run to the altar and tearfully throw ourselves down in sincere repentance, asking for God’s forgiveness until every one of our sins are recounted, relinquished and removed from God’s sight, but, when we are alone with ourselves, we still feel disgust, or even a loathing, for ourselves. So we are back the next week, repenting and sobbing, trying to get the love, forgiveness and acceptance we already have from God, when we are the only ones holding out on us. We know that He knows who we are and what we’ve done, but so do we. And therein lies the rub.

Usually, it is at this point that the Apostle Paul comes to mind saying, “I die daily,” meaning that little by little we are to take off the old man and put on the new. Some, like Paul himself, make an over night transformation, but for the rest of us it is a lifelong process.

Does that mean that we all have to become Christian Clones? At times it seems that way when you talk to some groups of believers. They all act the same, talk the same, and begin to look the same after a short time of being around them. If they are content to be the Stepford believers, then that is fine for them.

But it is our uniqueness that God likes. He created each of us individually, to be individuals, for our individual purpose. The only one we have to try to be like is Jesus, and that doesn’t mean we have to run around with an angelic face, spreading love and joy and peace all the time. We can have a personality of our own. We do have a personality of our own. That personality is what makes you you and God loves you for being you, just as he made you.   And all of your past experiences have shaped and molded that personality into who you are today.

So where does all of that leave us on loving ourselves so we can love our neighbors? Let me take a scripture totally out of context and say, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) If God can forgive and accept us and love us for who we are, then why can’t we? Or better yet, why shouldn’t we? Are we greater than God? Is there any other standard higher than God’s? If we are good enough for God, we ought to be good enough for us!! Realizing that this is not going to be easy for some, if not most, there is just one more thing to say, meant as nicely as possible – Get over yourself. You are who you are and will be whom God created you to be if you quit trying to tell yourself you’re not good enough. If you’re waiting until you’ve arrived, you’re never going to get there. Never stop trying to improve, but realize that there was only one sinless, regretless, perfect man. Chances are that probably isn’t you, but it is a goal to strive for. In the mean time, just relax and know that everyone else was and is a sinner saved by grace.   You are the same as everyone else in that respect. Accept yourself for who you are and it will make it easier to accept—and love – others. You are unique, just like everybody.

©  Simply Consider This, 2014.

THE SACRIFICE


sacrificeHe came to give his sacrifice. But he had nothing to offer.

“Lord,” he said, “I have nothing to offer you.  Not even a sparrow.  How can I be forgiven without a sacrifice?”  He  sat at the temple gates weeping. With no grain, meal, wine or not even a quadran– a quarter of a farthing– to buy even a half a sparrow to offer to his Lord.

“Lord,” he cried out once more in his anguish, “ I am a peasant.  I have nothing to offer you.  My life is meaningless. I barely have enough to keep me from starving from day to day. I am not a beggar but I am not a rich man.  What  can I give you, Lord, that would be worthy of your love?”

“Do you think I need bulls, or rams, or even sparrows to prove your love for me?  Those things are mine anyway.  That was just my way of having the people atone for their sins because they don’t really understand my love for them.  Ask and it will be given. Seek and you will find.”

“Ask what , Lord.  Seek after what? I just don’t understand.  What am I to do to please you?”

“You just have to give of yourself.  Give yourself to me and I will pour out my love on you so much you cannot contain it. Seek me and righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. Trust in me. You have already shown your willingness to please me and your humility in your attitude. Go and your sins are forgiven.”

The man looked around.  He was  physically alone and knew that he heard from God himself. He left the temple area not laughing at the others for their lack  of faith and understanding, but smiling knowing that his God was pleased with him and that he was loved for who he was.

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Statue


Nebu-Statue-04-NamesDaniel 2:
40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay.
42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.
_____________________________________________________________

As our government tries to homogenize our society, the strength of the nation breaks down into a fragmented, diverse and incongruous mixture of iron and clay.  The farther we get from the Christian beliefs on which this country was founded, the less likely we, as a nation, are to stand together on any issue; whether it concerns health, wealth, defense or freedom. We must not replace Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone that this country‘s foundation was laid upon.  A house divided against itself WILL fall, just as the feet of a statue made of clay and iron will crumble and fall. In much the same way as  The Holy Roman Empire has fallen, so shall the United States become the next “Great Nation” to cause its own demise by implementing self-reliance and negating the necessity for God.
_____________________________________________________________

44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.
45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

THE QUANDARY


questionsWhat does it matter?
Does anyone really care?
Are there any real answers?

Why do I have to read a history book?
Why do I have to talk to an unseen spirit?
How can I be sure the answers are not just my imagination?

If only I could believe in the unseen.
If only I could learn to trust the voice I hear.
If only I could understand that this is real.

He is The Way, The Truth and The Life.
I must believe it all The Way.
I must trust that what I believe is Truth.
I must understand that His Way is The Truth for my Life.

Do I want to continue on with what I am doing?
Do I want to continue on with unanswered questions?
Do I want to continue on with the helplessness I am feeling?

Am I willing to accept the forgiveness?
Am I willing to accept the acceptance?
Am I willing to accept the freedom?

Am I willing to listen to, understand, accept, believe in, trust in, and follow His direction?

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.

SWEETLY KISSED BY JESUS


father kissingBeen sweetly kissed by Jesus

A tender kiss He placed upon my cheek

Affectionately given, as a Father loves his child

As I came to Him, with my arms reaching out

My heart calls to Him, my lips lovingly proclaim

Abba, Father!

Your presence surrounds me

I feel so safe in Your arms

Yes, sweetly kissed by Jesus

A tender kiss He placed upon on my cheek

Treasuring this moment, forever

Until eternity

When at last I reach Heaven

We will finally meet

Remembering how You held me

In Your arms cradled tenderly

Never forgotten will be

The tender kiss placed upon my cheek

Running toward my Savior

My God, my King

The One who so willingly died for me

Bowing humbly down before Him

Overwhelmed by His majesty

There at His feet to adore Him

The One who kissed my cheek

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.