A Manna Prayer

forestbench

Taken from Exodus 16

And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Exodus 16: 18

Lord Jesus, help me accept what you have given me in gratitude. The food that you lay out each morning, whether it be the same or different, let me view it as directly from your hand.

Lord, help me not to be greedy, to try and collect more than what is my fair share, because truly, whatever is not used is just wasted.

Lord, help me to honor the Sabbath, to stop from my labor on the 7th day and to know, to practice and to meditate on the thought that rest is worship.

Lord, continually remind me that you are my promise keeper, that if you told me that you will supply my food every morning, then help me to trust that you will continue to do it, that it is a gift, I have only to gather it…and just like you did for the Israelites you’ll provide it for 40 years–or more.

Lord, help me to preserve the manna, the memory of how you have always given me everything I have ever needed, just as Aaron did along with the tablets of the covenant law. Help me not only to keep these promises close, but to speak of these testimonies of how great and generous a God you really are.

Amen.

Curing Covetousness: A Guest Post

On writing one of my last posts, I’d noticed I had explored the subject of contentment here on more than one occasion, so when I came upon Melissa’s thoughts on the matter, I couldn’t let it pass by without sharing. 

I was introduced to Melissa via social media by one of my best friends, and while I was impressed with her writing from the start, it took me a little while to get around to listening to her sermons, and that is where the idea for this guest post was born.  My sister and I sat down to listen to her message, “Finding Contentment in a Covetous World” and I was floored. Melissa speaks with candidness, a genuine love for her audience and a desire to see her fellow Christian grow spiritually. This came out of an even bigger project in her life, a book called The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World.  And once you are done reading about it below, click HERE to listen to one of the most well thought-out and helpful messages I’ve heard on the subject of cultivating contentment. 

Q: What’s the story behind your recent book The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World?

A: A number of years ago, while doing a study on the book of Joshua, I noticed the pattern of “see, covet, take and hide” in Achan’s story. As I began to explore this pattern in Scripture, I realized that it goes all the way back to the original sin of Eve in the garden. It became clear that the sin of “coveting” was no minor problem, but one that was at the core of our rebellion against God. But, this issue of coveting was not just an academic one—it was one I faced in my own life as I wrestled with unmet expectations, difficulties and trials. The breakthrough came when I began to realize that God’s commands for thanksgiving and joy were rooted in the Lord’s sovereignty and goodness, not the specific circumstances of my life. My problem was a failure to believe something, not a failure to possess something. I found that coveting was most often a right desire for a good thing that had soured in the waiting process. This awareness drove me deep into God’s word in search of Biblical ways to combat covetous tendencies. Five years after that initial study on the book of Joshua, The Envy of Eve was complete.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

A: The central idea that I hope my readers will take away from The Envy of Eve is that discontentment is not a circumstantial problem, but a heart problem. Our lack of joy, impatience, discontentment, or irritability have much more to do with a failure to believe something about the Lord than with what is actually happening on a particular day. Rather than living life always wondering, “Why isn’t God giving me what I desire?”, my hope is that we would start asking, “What does God desire of me as I walk through the circumstances He has providentially planned for me today?” Truthfully, it changes everything to believe that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are available for each day as we abide in Jesus and walk by His Spirit.

Q: Is The Envy of Eve for women only or will men find something of value in your book as well?

A: When we consider that the command against coveting is found within the 10 Commandments, we realize that it is clearly an equal opportunity sin struggle for both men and women! In fact, I think it is one of the most important commandments because it speaks to what is happening inside our hearts, not just our external actions. If anyone thought they had fulfilled the law by their outward actions, this command digs deep into the soul and exposes one’s need for the gospel in a particular way. While the examples I use are often directed towards women, the Biblical stories that expose prevalence of this sin pattern are beneficial for both men and women to consider. God’s truths are relevant for everyone, even if the particular desires they battle against are different. We can all benefit from considering carefully what we desire and the effects that might have upon ourselves, the church, and the world around us.

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Melissa Kruger serves on staff as Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Uptown Church (PCA) in Charlotte, North Carolina and is the author of The Envy of Eve:  Finding Contentment in a Covetous World (Christian Focus, 2012) and Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood (WaterBrook/Multnomah, 2015).  She blogs at Wit’s End (www.melissabkruger.com) and writes regularly for The Gospel Coalition and Christianity.com.  Her husband, Mike, is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary and they have three children.  You can follow her on twitter: @melissabkruger

Please Give Me a Toy Sword and Make Me Faster, God

Creative Commons by Wesley Fryer
So, this was the phrase uttered by one of the little boys in our Wednesday night prayer time in class.  After our mission’s story, we give each kid a turn at talking with God.  This was the little boy that chose to hit himself on his forehead whenever he got embarrassed for being the new kid in class.

This was also the same kid who took my hands tenderly in his own and told me that he had a four-wheeler at his house–and then explained, “I’m faster than my four-wheeler.”

Awesome.

Somehow as we age, we get all formal in our prayers and act pious and sometimes was are downright pious–we’ve spent more than 10 minutes reading our Bible this morning, we even prayed for other people and so we come to God with the extremely flowery details of our perfectly formulated request–cut the pretense, God knows us anyway.  He doesn’t need the details.

My point is, I think it’s ok to be brutally honest with God in our prayers with phrases like, “I’m selfish and this is why I’m asking you for this…” or, “God, this is soooo completely messed up and unfair.  I’m not sure if I’m going to be a Christian tomorrow because of how this person has treated me.”

The other day, I picked up Jesus Calling in the bookstore (I know, I’m the last person on earth who does not own this book), and it, of course, is Jesus talking, saying that we are wasting our time, dwelling in our sorrows and our desires when what he wants is for us is to praise him.  And this is what the psalmist does, he begs the Lord not to be silent, he points to the craftiness of his enemies (Psalm 83) and then moving on to the next chapter (84:1), he is praising God, saying, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God…and then there is this conclusion, this beautiful conclusion to it all:

For the Lord is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good  thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.  O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you. 
Psalm 84:11-12

Somehow, when we desire his presence more than anything else, everything else–the toy sword, the speed–all comes into perspective.

Gifts Upon Gifts–Is It Christmastime?

On going over our lesson in I Kings 1-4 last week during group time, one of the questions that popped up in our study from Chapter 4 had to do with Solomon receiving the gift of wisdom from God.  We were asked the question: “What gifts has God given you?” Someone in our class shared how thankful she was for a good husband and children, and a home and I inwardly shook my head and thought-“That poor woman, she answered the question wrong, it’s ok, our leader will say something…” And when someone said, “Well, my ability to do such and such or touch the lives of so and so, I outwardly nodded in agreement, because this is of course how I interpreted the question (which is always the right way, no?) And, inevitably our discussion leader said, “You know I was thinking about outward blessings too.”  And then my black and white world trembled a bit when I realized that there could be two interpretations to this question. 
And then, I thought how incredible it was that Solomon’s gifts were the same too:
At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.
Wow.  So, not only does God grant Solomon exactly what he asks for, but he heaps blessing upon blessing upon him through material wealth and honor. 
How AMAZING is this God that we serve?  So much so, that not only can we thank God for the talents, skills and abilities that he’s given us, but we see the residual blessings of these inner qualities, we gain respect when we do a job with the best of our efforts, we love our work when we allow God to provide exactly what we need when we need it, we see our children flourish when we raise them according to his commands and teachings, we become confidant in who we are when we are giving back. 
It really is this beautiful waltz, isn’t it?
What gifts and talents has God given you that you have seen tangible results?  I ask this so that He might get the glory… 

Confessions of a Single Mom: The Sin of Pride

Ok, so this is one of those days that I crack open the window to my soul to the Rachel inside the Rachel.  My life has been filled with challenges as of late, and I’ve taken the last three days to concertedly pray about something that I’ve been struggling with, really battling against since October (“What took you so long?” you might ask–I’ll I’ve got is that I’m a sloooow learner).

But isn’t it surreal when you start praying about one problem, the Lord brings all these lovely, nasty issues to the surface of the heart-stew?  Over and over again, He been speaking to me about my pride.  Yeah, we all struggle with it, confess, try to be humble, etc.  But it wasn’t until yesterday did I really examine what I was being prideful about.

So let’s scoot back in time a few weeks to Sunday School class…I go to a recently-formed single mom’s SS class.  I’ve been enjoying it since my first Sunday there and even though I can only attend every other week due to other commitments in the church, I was beginning to get to know the other women, they me, I pray for them, etc.  We conclude each class with prayer in a circle holding each other’s  hands.  It’s nice.  Well, that particular Sunday, one of the leaders said, as we were in our circle holding hands, “I want you all to ask yourselves, ‘Why do I go to Sunday school?'” The co-director chimed in, “Yep, I was thinking the exact same question.”  On the  surface it’s one of those Duh, I go to learn about the Bible and fellowship answers.  

Maybe.

On the surface.

But this past Sunday in class was powerful.  We have a time of prayer requests/praises at the beginning of each class and girlfriend, we were testifyin’, ’cause wrapped up in each request was this incredible praise, stuff that I had been going through that other women had just gone through and how God gave the victory, there were Amens and thank-you-Jesuses spilling out of our mouths and were were weeping.  I shared about God providing another car for me, one raised her hand and said she need a domestic lawyer.  We are praying for Margaret* to get her CNA certification.  Our lives as single moms are Meeeessy.

Messy.

We really need each other.  Because without one another we are islands and we are lonely and isolated.

I realized that, when it came to this class, this label as “single mom”, I had this pride all wrapped up in it and I realized that it came from two root, damaging thoughts:

#1 This isn’t me.  I didn’t come about this role like other moms do.  I was married, we had planned, we had saved.  I had prayed over this child since the moment I found out I was pregnant.  There were two of us when this little one came to be.

#2 This is just temporary.  This is a stopover.  This is not permanent.  Well, the reality is, this “temporary” situation is my life.  It is where God has placed me right now it is exactly where I need to be.

Man, I was prideful.  I needed one of those ladies to slap me up over the head to knock some sense into me.  I need these women, I need that class and I needed to be there to share my struggles with them.

Honey child, this is a room full of mommas.  Fierce mommas who are trying to raise up their children to know God.  Mommas who will fight, make mistakes, learn,  make enemies and try to keep the peace in their own homes.  It’s like this She-ra forcefield or something–and it is powerful.

Care to share any ways God’s been bubbling something to the surface in your life?

*name changed

I May Be Starting to Get this Bread Thing

No wonder Jesus got so frustrated with the disciples.  He was doing everything he could to appeal to them on their level, talking of bread, wine, etc. and still they weren’t getting it.  I’m pretty sure that’s why we’re referred to as sheep so often, we’re dumb, we need direction, CONTINUAL direction, the only thing we really are good for is hearing our Shepherd’s voice.  It’s true, my friend raised a couple of sheep for 4-H and she said tenderly, repeatedly that the sheep always knew her voice.  It made me want to cry.

This week’s lesson for my bible study in Mark brought me to 8: 1-21, the feeding of 4,000.  We were asked to contrast this with the feeding of the 5, 000 (6:30-44).  In both instances the disciples complain after Jesus says that they need to feed the crowd.  In the first account, they complain about how costly it’s going to be (8 months wages!) in the second account the disciples complain about the inconvenience (we’re in the middle of nowhere, how are we going to do that?!).

Yet, both accounts start off with the approximately the same amount of food (5 loaves and 2 small fish and 7 loaves and a few small fish).

And both accounts have the same miraculous results: full bellies all around and 12 and 7 basketfuls of leftovers.

It bears repeating: OUR GOD IS AMAZING.

Moving forward in chapter 8, now we get to the frustrating part: after feeding the 4,000, Jesus sent the crowd on their way, got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha, here the Pharisees came and questioned Jesus.  In order to test him, they asked for a sign from heaven, Jesus sighs deeply and says that no, they will not get their sign (I wonder if He was thinking to himself, “I AM that sign?”).  After this, he gets into his boat and crosses over to the other side.

The disciples had forgotten to pack food for the trip and only had one loaf of bread left, Jesus warns them to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.  Here, my study refers us to I Corinthians 5:6-8 where the old yeast of the Pharisees is referred to as malice and wickedness.

The disciples get this quizzical look on their faces and talk among themselves and they insist: “It is because we have no bread.”

I can feel the frustration and sadness in Jesus’s question: “Why are you talking about having no bread?  Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?

And don’t you remember?”

He asks them how many basketfuls were left over after each feeding and they answer in turn, and he asks them, “Do you still not understand?”

Jesus was expecting them to have seen, heard, and remembered that God was bringing them new bread and he was providing out of his abundance!  NOT out of anything they could earn or provide on their own.  He wanted them to live out full, abundant lives, not in fear or worry, simply doing what God had called them to do: to trust God to meet needs, to heal, to preach the gospel and walk in a manner that’s worthy of being called His disciples.  I know it, I’m preachin’ to the choir right now.

If I am doing what God has called me to do: be a godly mother, nurture my child and teach her the ways of Christ, live out my life in a way that testifies to the gospel of his grace, that’s it.  Why strive for anything else?  Why question the one loaf we have in our hands?

My pastor, at least once a month in his sermons says, “You say to yourself, but I’m just a homemaker. No, you are NOT just a homemaker, you are shaping minds, you are shaping hearts, don’t forget about that.”

Love it.

In His Hand

There is Strength

Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power

Exodus 15:6


There is Might
Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy
Exodus 15:6

There is Power
You stretched out your right hand and swallowed them
Exodus 15:12

There is Sustenance
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing
Psalm 145:16

There is Creation
In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind
Job 12:10

There is Help
For I am the Lord your god who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.”
Isaiah 41:13

There is No Fault
Your right hand is filled with righteousness
Psalm 48: 10

There is Love
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me
Isaiah 49: 16

Photo Licenced under Creative Commons by Andre Maceira