Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Toward the end of the year my blogging has been light. For a lot of people, me included, December is frantic with obligations and pressures, most of which are supposed to be infused with holiday joy. So I’m hoping to write a little more regularly in this new year, Lord willing.

But I wanted to end this year by reflecting on a small book I've been reading. John Bunyan, best known for The Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote a great deal on prayer. I've been slowly reading his The Throne of Grace, first published in 1692. Bunyan spends 100 pages on one verse of Scripture:

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

The other night I was reading how he distinguished the “throne of grace” from other thrones. What he said was so encouraging. Here's a quote (my emphasis).
It is with the throne of grace, as it is with the waters of Bath, and other sovereign and healing waters; they are most coveted by them that are diseased…So, I say, is the throne of grace; its waters are for healing, for soul-healing; that is their virtue (Ezek. 47.8,9). Wherefore, as at Nature’s waters, the lame leave their crutches, and the sick such other tokens of their recovery as may be a sign of their receiving health and cure there, so at the throne of grace, true penitents, and those that are sick for mercy, do leave their sighs and tears…(pp. 89-90)
If you find your soul…
  • Stained by sin, the throne of grace is soul-cleansing.
  • Ragged with the sickness of this broken world, the throne of grace is soul-healing.
  • Struggling with weariness, the throne of grace is soul-refreshing and -renewing.
  • Parched and dry, the throne of grace is soul-satisfying.
In this new year, may you draw near, over and over again, to the throne of grace, and may you find all that your soul needs in Christ!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Standing in the Path of the Storm: The God of the Storm (Part 4 of 4)

My last three posts have been about Standing in the Path of the Storm:
I've been pointing to the amazing story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20, and suggesting that his desperate prayer for his nation is a great model for our own lives. So far I mentioned five lessons to learn from Jehoshaphat. Here’s one more...

6.  Expect Complete Victory.
When God delivers, He does so decisively. Here’s how 2 Chronicles reports it:

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another. (vv. 22-23)

In the end the voluminous provisions these invaders had brought, with the probable intent  of repopulating Judah, instead became  an abundant overflow of God’s blessing.

When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. (vv. 23-25)

If you summarize this victory, you have to include:
            Enemies destroyed;
            Super-abundant plunder;
            God’s people rejoice;
            God’s reputation is exalted.
            And the kingdom enjoys peace!

God doesn't always win the victory the way we’d prefer. But He is the God of the storm. Even the wind and the waves obey Him. And in the end, He brings His people to safety and to blessing. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Standing in the Path of the Storm: Praying in the Middle of the Storm (Part 3 of 4)

King Jehoshaphat faced a leader’s worst nightmare: his nation was about to be invaded by a huge coalition of three enemy armies, and Judah’s defenses stood no chance of repelling them. Jehoshaphat brought his people together and led them in desperate prayer. I tried to tell a parallel story from our own history - surviving a tornado. Last time I shared some lessons about prayer  and here are a couple more. (And if you haven't reviewed the story in 2 Chronicles 20, you should check it out here.)

3. Wait for God to Communicate.

When Jehoshaphat finished his prayer, there was nothing more to say. While the enemy army drew nearer, “All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord” (v. 13). They simply waited.

And God spoke through a man named Jehaziel (v. 14).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Standing in the Path of the Storm: Prayer for the Gathering Storms Ahead (Part 2 of 4)

Last time I spoke of surviving a tornado, and the lessons about prayer I began to learn from studying Jehoshaphat’s example and leadership in 2 Chronicles 20. (If you haven’t read this chapter recently, you should. Click here.) 

I have five lessons I’d like to share in the next few posts. For today, the first two…

God’s response to Jehoshaphat’s desperate prayer was gracious and powerful. Looking at desperate times through the lens of the king’s example, I began to see some principles of prayer for the gathering storms ahead.

1. Measure the Storm by the Character and Promises of God.

Jehoshaphat brought his people together in grave recognition of the nation’s peril. But then he led them to focus on Almighty God, claiming His power and promises.

First he focused on God’s attributes. O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you” (v. 6).

When we gauge the fury of the storm by the power of Almighty God, the storm is absolutely dwarfed!

Then Jehoshaphat reminded God of His promises to His people. “O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for Your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’” (vv. 7-9).

Jehoshaphat echoed the words of King Solomon, who prayed to dedicate the temple a century before. The night after the ceremony, the Lord appeared to Solomon and made a promise that His people have been claiming ever since. It must have been on Jehoshaphat’s heart in the middle of the storm:

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Centering our thoughts and emotions in the Scriptures will help us pray through the storm. Passages about His wisdom, power, mercy, faithfulness, and goodness strengthen and equip us to ride out the storm in confidence.

We may begin with “Have mercy!” But from there we can learn to proclaim aloud the beauty of His holiness and the power of His promises.

2. Demonstrate Helpless Dependence on God.

Judah’s assembly was an eloquent testimony to their dependence upon the Lord. Whole families stood together, babies in arms, praying and fasting  (cf. v. 13). They knew God was their only hope.  If He didn’t intervene, they would be destroyed.

Jehoshaphat ended his prayer with this humble statement: “ . . . we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (v. 12).

The storm forces us to this place of dependence, confessing that nothing else has the slightest chance of saving us. Not our possessions or our connections, not our personalities or our education. Not our religion or our luck.

Letting God know we know that He is our first, last, and only option is a good thing. While it is true that we can pray from any position, our posture can mirror the attitude of our hearts. Sometimes I feel the need to pray, flat on my face. Other times standing with hands raised to heaven. Similarly when we say no to food or to sleep for a time, we remind ourselves, and God, that we are counting on Him, and Him alone.

Corporate prayer, fasting, and confession allow us to say, while the storm rages around us, our hope is in You, Lord. Only You.

For next time: Praying in the Middle of the Storm

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Standing in the Path of the Storm: Learning to Pray through Desperate Times (Part 1 of 4)

In my last post I mentioned an old Bible of mine that always opens to 2 Chronicles 20. This is the story of why.   

What do you do when you’re standing directly in the path of a tornado?

I found out on June 29, 1998, as I huddled in the darkness of the basement, our house shuddering from the force of the wind as it cut a swath through the northern Des Moines metro.  In only minutes the sky went from a serene blue to an angry charcoal. Rain, whipped by nearly 100-mile-an hour winds, plastered shredded leaves to the sides of our house and poured through an open window. Broken glass sliced through my office as the window casement was wrenched away. Trees were snapped off fifteen feet above the ground or torn out by their roots. My neighbor’s camper ended upside down in someone else’s backyard. Shingles sailed by like flocks of Frisbees.

As the thunder and lightning escalated, the power went out, and the entire house began to tremble. Sirens started to blare, a warning to seek cover. As I headed for the basement, my mind flashed on the movie “Twister”—the scene where a man is ripped out of a storm shelter and sucked into the mouth of the monster wind.