Raising Heaven

Until I was about 12, my parents didn’t go to church. On Sunday mornings, my mom’s mom, Mamaw Deloney, insisted that they bring me, my sister, and my brother to her house, which was six miles away. She and Granddad took us to services.

Mama and daddy would come to pick us up and eat lunch. Often I stayed over and went to church with my grandparents on Sunday evening. That led to a memory that branded my childhood.

Granddad would often go outside to stretch his legs after the Sunday afternoon football game on television (one game for the whole day!) Mamaw took advantage of the quiet to slip away to her fortress of solitude, her bedroom. There she prayed and prepared her heart for the Sunday evening service.

Often I would still be in the living room as I heard Mamaw “raising heaven” in the back bedroom. If I get still, I can still feel the power and urgency of those prayers as my grandmother spoke with the One she loved so fervently. Her prayers not only touched heaven, they also touched and changed me.

I have hundreds of memories of this remarkable little country lady—apple pie, fried chicken, stories, hugs, etc—but those prayers hover near the top of the list.

I wonder what my grandchildren will remember about me.

Heaven-raising Prayers

Mamaw’s prayers were fervent, not just loud. I’ve heard people thunder prayers that shook the dust out of the rafters, but I’m not sure heaven listened. Samuel’s mother prayed and only her lips moved (1 Samuel 1:13). Still, a remarkable son resulted from her praying. Loud or quiet, the prayer that moves heaven is full of heart, heat, and faith.

“The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].” (James 5:16 AMPC)

Prayers that raise heaven ache for what they ask for. If you’ve got an answer figured out or you don’t really care if God answers your prayer or not, why should He care? This poses a problem because we’re asked to pray for a ton of people and situations and many of them we don’t know. How can you feel your prayers in that case?

Sometimes I try to put myself in the person’s place asking prayer. What if that was my son or daughter? What if I faced death?

The other secret weapon that God gives to help us care is the Holy Spirit. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-28, ESV)

A third principle of prayer that succeeds is an “I’m-going-to-have-this-or-else” attitude. I love Jesus’ story of the little lady dealing with the crooked judge. She had faith that this scoundrel was going to help her or he would wish he had. And he did.

Now, God wants to answer your prayer, but he also wants to develop an attitude of faith and persistence in you. That attitude will serve you as well as an answered prayer, because you learn not to quit. Here’s how faith prays:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭7, 8‬ ‭NLT)

Do Your Prayers Raise Heaven?

When your kids and grandkids think back on you, what will they remember? Will they remember you raising heaven or raising something else?

Get busy making memories for the generations who follow you. And get some prayer results yourself while you are at it.

Image: Bing AI

Does God Want To Heal … Or Just Reign?

Does God Want to Heal … Or Just Reign?

We need powerful truth coupled with counsel for practical living to live victoriously.

“Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, weighing 450-pounds, you have Deeeeeep Theology!” the announcer booms while a huge boxer stomps to the middle of the ring bathed in the wild cheers of the crowd. Half of the crowd, anyway.

The other half saves their roar until the announcement of his opponent, “Practical Living and Miracles,” who skips out and bounces around a few times, arms raised as if he’s already victorious.

Let the match begin.

Which One Is Right?

There is a conflict between those who think pastors should teach deep spiritual truth almost exclusively, and those who bear down on a practical approach to God to get your daily needs met.

And both of them land some good punches. Those who prefer deep theology rightly note that some reduce God to a Coke machine—put in your dollar of prayer, push the button and voila!, all your needs are met. And woe to God when He doesn’t do what you want Him to.

According to them, the “shallow, practical bunch” couldn’t find John 3:16 if you spotted them the page number. I’m reading an excellent book by pastor J. D. Greer. “We want a God who will restore us to peaceful equilibrium, take away our stress, and promise us a blissful afterlife. Most Christians haven’t rejected God; they have just reduced him.”

He continues, “I am, in part, the product of a Christian culture that has fostered and promoted a small, domesticated view of God. The Western Christianity in which I have been immersed focuses on the practicality of faith. We present God as the best way to a happy and prosperous life. We show how God is the best explanation for unanswered questions and the best means to the life we desire. Our worship services seem more like pep rallies accompanied by practical tips for living than encounters with the living God who stands beyond time and whose presence is indescribably glorious. These shallow glimpses of God are fine as long as our faith remains untested, but they are utterly insufficient in the midst of serious questioning or intense suffering.” (Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems by J.D. Greear and David Jeremiah)

Our friend, “Practical Living and Miracles,” is unfazed. He bobs and weaves and lands his blows. “Those folks hide away in ivory towers and put the Gospel so high that no one can reach it,” he says. “They spend their time in their office reading dusty theology books while right outside the door people are hurting, confused, and need help from a personal God who still intervenes for those who trust Him. If you’re having problems sleeping, just listen to one of these doctors of theology speak. They will cure you instantly.”

You know who is right? Both of them. Who is wrong? Both of them.

God’s Word shows clearly that the Lord is for the whole man.

A Body, Soul, and Spirit God

Think about the Lord’s prayer: Jesus starts with the spiritual—worship and surrender; then He continues with requests for practical needs—daily bread, help to forgive, battles against temptation and trials. Then worship again.

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament emphasize God’s concern for the whole man.

OLD: Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

(Psalm 103:2-4, NLT)

NEW: Beloved, I pray that in every way you may prosper and enjoy good health, as your soul also prospers. (3 John 1:2, BSB)

We are body, soul, and spirit. We’re not disembodied spirits floating around without physical needs. I think sometimes those who advocate for the “spiritual,” all the while insisting that God no longer does miracles, are afraid of seeing God meet natural needs. Why? Because they really don’t want Him to challenge them to see how great He is. A today-present God is rather scary.

Or they are afraid He won’t answer as they want and that will injure their faith. But, the fear of asking betrays a lack of trust.

But the “practical” adherents sometimes want to eat the miraculous fish and bread, then go about their life, leaving Jesus out. At times, their lives strongly resemble that of those who’ve never heard of the Lord. There is no witness to the power of God because their life is no different from everyone else’s.

No! The danger here is to be so excited about God’s provision that we’re not hungry for God himself. The God of truth is incredibly great, holy, and powerful.

Sometimes they are like someone who marries for money. They love the benefits and put up with the one who provides those benefits. No!

Pleasing God

The ones who please God come for the Word AND to have their needs met. We are body, soul, and spirit, and God wants to work in every aspect of our life.

Balanced teaching and faith in life emphasize both. These two truths aren’t opponents. They walk in lockstep to help us know and love the God who loves us.

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.” Luke 5:15 NIV.

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Multiplying God’s Investment In You

When someone speaks of signs of the Lord’s coming we get excited. The Lord noted a few signs of the times of His appearing, but He bore down on two things–staying alert and giving Him a good return on the gifts He’s placed in you.

We need to be busy using what He’s given us to grow the Kingdom. Jesus told a story about a master who entrusted three different men with different amounts of his money (Matthew 25). He didn’t expect five talent results from the one and two talent servants. But, he expected at least interest on his money. They could do that with no effort at all.

Get With It!

The five-talent guy went AT ONCE and started trading. It doesn’t say this about the two others. One of the things that separate those who are fruitful from others is that they don’t procrastinate.

The coming of the Lord also promises a “settling up.” “the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” (Matt. 25:19, ESV). God isn’t going to simply verify that “we didn’t smoke and we didn’t chew and we didn’t go with girls who did.”

He’s looking for a return on His investment in us! Uh, oh!

The five-talent guy was happy because he could report that he had doubled his master’s money. The two-talent guy, too. Both were commended. “Well done good and faithful servant.” There was joy and more responsibility awaiting them. He didn’t berate the two-talent fellow because he didn’t gain as much as the five-talent guy. He didn’t expect him to. He maximized what he had.

Another Fellow Slinks In

The one talent guy, though. In fear he dug a hole and hid his talent. Fear was only part of the problem. Laziness and poor character figured into the equation also. (25:26) He described the others as good and faithful. This bird was wicked and slothful.

If we’re not making our talent work for the Lord we’re a negative and not a positive. If someone gives me $1000 to invest and I do nothing with it but I give it back at the end of a year I’ve lost money for that person. Inflation! Recently, he would have lost 3-9% of the value of his money if Ihad done nothing because of inflation.

Look at the audacity of this guy. He accuses his master of wrongdoing and supposedly that was the source of his fear. Baloney! His wicked and lazy heart was the problem, not the master who trusted him.

A Violation of Trust

That’s it isn’t it? Failure to invest what God has given us is a violation of His trust. It’s putting our ways and business before the Lord’s business. He is the Lord. He “pays our salary.” If we’re on the phone all the time and surfing the Internet while never doing anything for the Kingdom we’re taking from the Lord.

So, there are at least three enemies to productivity in the Kingdom—wickedness, laziness, and fear. 25:26, NLT “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant!”

Even a minimal, safe investment would have given some interest. But, all he did was brush the dirt off the money and offer it back to his master. What was he doing all this time? Nothing? Most likely he was full of his own business. Maybe the master provided food and board. This fellow was going to be out on his ear. Fired!

Burying Potential

Lord, I don’t want to bury what You’ve given me to invest. That’s it, isn’t it? We say, “I don’t want to bury my talent,” but this talent is the Master’s, not ours. He entrusted us with it to use in His Kingdom and make it grow.

What is the “least we could do?” Maybe tithe, attend services regularly and encourage our brothers and sisters. Spend some time each day in worship and prayer because that makes a difference in heavenly places.

Fruit-bearing isn’t that complicated. You don’t have to go to Lower Slobovia as a missionary to bear fruit (unless the Lord calls you).
You can:

ESV Matt. 10:42
“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” That covers nursery workers and lots of others.

ESV
“The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.” Matt. 10:41

If You Want More, Be Industrious With What You Have?

So, they take away the lazy guy’s talent and give it to the 10-talent guy. Unjust? If you had money to invest, which one of these fellows would you want to invest it? Would you leave it with the lazy fellow out of “kindness” or would you give it to an investment person who could make some money for you?

Sometimes we criticize people for some of their ways of doing things, (and we should stay true to the Word), but those people are doing something while the other fearful, lazy, preoccupied-with-their-own business ones only criticize.

Unless the critic is in the battle for the Lord, does he have the right to an audience for his grumbling?

The master gives that one talent to the man who is going to use it and make him a profit. The no-return-on-the-master’s-investment servant? Out on his ear! “25:29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” NLT

This is serious. Serious! I had better be working to make the Master a profit on his investment. (And because I am saved, why shouldn’t I want to be fruitful?)

Those three enemies always confront you when I want to multiply the Lord’s investment in me—fear, preoccupation with my own advancement, and laziness. Push past them.

It’s better to fail than to hide your talent and do nothing.

The Heart-Mouth Highway

I love the old spiritual, the “Dry Bones” Song. You remember — “Toe bone connected to the foot bone, foot bone connected to the heel bone, heel bone connected to the ankle bone, ankle bone connected to the shin bone, now hear the Word of the Lord.” (click to hear)

When I sing it to myself, I like to mix up the bones and even add a few. “The head bone’s connected to the knee bone, and the knee bone’s connected to the ear bone.” Or something like that.

If you want your skeleton to work right, though, the correct bone has to be connected to its corresponding bone.

Bone Surgery

There is a surprising connection that often determines how well our life works: the heart bone connects to the mouth bone.

Now at first glance that seems weird, but I didn’t make it up. Check out God’s x-ray:

“… For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” (Matt. 12:34-37, NLT)

So, remember this: If you question if someone is good or bad, study the fruit of his life. Listen to what comes out of the mouth—yours and others. It’s the best sign of what is in the heart. The heart is KEY!

“My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.” (Proverbs 4, ESV)

If the motor of your car spits, sputters, and pops, you need to head for the mechanic. You hear what’s going on in the motor.

It’s the same with our heart. We constantly do a “mouth check” because it reveals what is in our heart. When we’re humming along with praise, encouragement, and faith-filled self talk, we’re getting about 50 miles per gallon.

But, if negativity, doubt, criticism, judgement and vulgarity typify our words, we better stop and peek under the hood. Something is wrong.

I Say What I Think

A lady in a church far away once told me, “I’m just a country girl. I say what I think.” I concluded that is okay if what you think is worth saying. In her case, a lot of things that came out of her mouth caused confusion, hurt, and division.

Let’s try this for a day. Keep a diary of what you say (or what you would say if you weren’t keeping track of it and planning to study the results.)

Are you speaking well of others? Are you expressing faith or doubt? Do you praise God often during the day? Speak up for the Lord? Do your words encourage or discourage? Unite or divide? Any curses?

Do you discourage yourself with all your “poor mouthing” about yourself?

Is your mouth the exit point for a lot of “everything is going to the dogs,” “that fellow is just sorry, there’s no hope for him.” Are you “trash talking” or praising and lifting others with the product of your heart coming out of your mouth?

Do you speak in faith and give God the glory or do you whine like you didn’t have a powerful, living God?

Do the words you hear coming out of your own mouth encourage you or discourage you?

If the product is nasty, bring your heart before God and ask Him to cleanse it, to give it faith and courage, to fill it with patience for others and yourself.

“Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around,” says the old spiritual. And strangely, the heart bone’s connected to the mouth bone and when the connection functions the way it should, you don’t walk. You run!

illustration: dall-e

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Why Is God Hiding?

When my grandson Matthew was about two years old, he loved to play hide and seek with me. Hard-core fans of the game would have found something to be desired in his “hiding,” though.

Papa would count to ten and little Matthew would scurry off to hide behind his open bedroom door. Of course I knew where he was but I would pretend to search. (I may have peeked).

“Where’s Matthew?” I would call. “Where’s Matthew?”

And from behind the door I would hear a little voice giving me a hint. “Woo-hoo! Woo-hoo!” And, wonder of wonders, I found him. Amazing, huh?

He would either run off giggling or I might snatch him into my arms for a hug. You see, when you’re two, the game of hide and seek has a different goal. Ten-year olds want to hide so well that you can’t find them.

For two-year olds, the goal is to be found. Hold that thought.

Hide And Seek With God?

The other morning I woke up and for some reason I felt the Lord was a bit distant from me. I know this is all subjective, but I asked myself, “Did I do something wrong? It must be me, the problem.”

As I read the Bible that morning a verse leaped out, “Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” (Isaiah 45:15, ESV).

“A God who hides himself?” That’s weird, I thought.

Then I remembered little Matthew hiding behind the door. He was hiding, but he wanted to be found. Now, I may be taking the verse out of context, (it won’t be the first time I’ve been guilty of that), but the principle is true.

Maybe the feeling of estrangement I felt from God that morning wasn’t that I had done something wrong or that God was upset with me. Maybe He was hiding so I would get up and go find Him.

When a fellow finds the love of his life, he seeks to be with her. If this lover quits seeking his beloved the relationship grows stale (a word from God for some of us?) The object of his love wants him to desire to be with her.

God is like that. He wants to be wanted.

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord…” (Jer. 29:12, 13, ESV)

Do you feel dry spiritually, separated from His presence? Stop and listen. You hear that voice? I think it’s God.

“Woo-hoo. Woo-hoo!”