Friday, August 26, 2005

I Can Lose Weight "Through Christ Who Strengthens Me"

This week I, Raul, will share how the Lord has blessed me, when I have let Him be Lord of my Body-Temple.

I Can Lose Weight "Through Christ Who Strengthens Me"

Most of my life I have lived a life of pleasure. As someone suggested my life was a life of "whatever - whenever." I drank what I wanted to drink when I wanted. I ate what I wanted to eat when I wanted. The sad part is that although I enjoyed it, I did not truly like the consequences of this lifestyle. It is no surprise that most of my life I have been overweight, if not obese. This is the part I did not like. Like everyone else I tried all sorts of things, but nothing worked. Actually, it seemed like things got worse every time I tried something new. And, people kept asking me when I was going to do something about my weight. In answer to years of intercessory prayer by my loved ones, I finally yielded my will in this matter to God. It was only then that I was enabled to stop trying on my own, and let God do it. And when God took over with my permission, that's when I actually started losing weight consistently, and in a healthy manner.

Now that I have lost more than 100 lbs, the question frequently is, "What are you doing to lose weight?" In the beginning I would give the standard answer, "I'm walking, watching the proportions I eat, and when." Then one day when I was feeling satisfied with my progress, then Christ rebuked me. He told me that I was giving the credit to myself and others that He deserved. You see, I had forgotten that it was really Christ who was doing the work in me. There is only one reason you see results today: I am willing. So now when the question is asked, my answer is, "I am following the Philippians 4:13 plan: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." This of course, is puzzling to some people. It was to me, until I read an article, on how the Gospel gives us the power to lose weight, and then it clicked. When I was taking the credit for my weight loss, I was being just like King Hezekiah who, when the Babylonians came to him in search of answers, took all the glory to himself, instead of giving it to God - its Rightful Owner. I have since realized, that its God who does the work, and I just surrender my will -- daily. In the past I was resistant to yielding because I thought I could handle things, but now by His grace I am willing to let Him work in me. Recently as I was relating this new found insight to some friends, one of them caught on and then asked, "So what is God doing for you (now)?" Here is the answer to his question.

1.0 Prayer:
My weight loss is really an answer to prayer. Loved ones who were concerned about my health, prayed for me for at least ten years. God loves to answer prayer that is from the heart and is offered collectively. While He listens to our individual prayer petitions, He responds more quickly to our collective intercession, particularly on behalf of others. So, if you are in need, ask God to send you -- people who delight in being in His presence, and who take sin seriously -- to pray for you.

2.0 Providence:

In His Time and in His way I came across persons as well as information that God used to guide me along to the next step in this journey. As an example, God provided select television and radio shows which provided critical information at the time when I needed it. He also provided two specialists for me to work with (a Physician and a Nutritionist) along with a workbook or two.

2.1 A Book To Read
In early 2003 my sister asked me to watch an Oprah talk show on the topic of weight loss. Immediately I made a face of disgust, and made up an excuse that the show was on too late. But, in the Lord's providence, I ended up watching it. The guest speaker that day was a female author by the name of Laura Mellin, who had written a book entitled, "The Solution." I watched in fascination as she discussed the content of the book. What Laura said that really peaked my curiosity, was that there are about six cures we learn from our parents as we grow up. According to her book, if we learn these six cures our weight will be appropriate for our age, height and bone structure, and will remain stable. If however, these cures are not passed on, or we aren't able to learn them, we are not only likely to overeat, but to become overweight and even obese. The case is not lost however, for if we choose to, we can learn these six cures as adults, from her book. Amazingly, by working in the workbook under the power, direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I have resolved many of my past issues, and been relieved of all the baggage that led to my gaining weight. I am so thankful to God for using this process to clean and purify my mind and emotions. Folks, this is what the Holy Spirit is trying to do in all of us. Yes, He has different methods, but the process is the same. This is what Sanctification is all about, the Holy Spirit, with our permission, ridding us of hidden sin. God has used this book to heal me emotionally; for which I am grateful.

2.2 A Specialist To See:
A few years ago being obese started to produce complications. For starters, sciatica pain put me out for a week; a few years after that I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, and soon after found that I had mild levels of arthritis in both knees. To add more insult to injury, I developed two pinched-nerves in the lumbar area of my back. Boy was the pain and discomfort were unbearable. Naturally most of these ailments were all weight related. My primary care physician was so concerned that he recommended I consider a gastric by-pass operation. Fearful, I changed some habits (which I discuss next), but my efforts were inconsistent and half-hearted. In late 2003, I was diagnosed with Diabetes, and when I saw that "Diabetic" label being stuck on my chart, it finally hit me that I was "over my head" in trouble. At that visit, the physician said, " more games. You will see a dietician as soon as possible," and I said, "Anything." Finally, I was ready to listen willingly to God, and to hear what He had to say. The Diabetes scared me so much that I knew that I had finally lost control. It was then that I chose -- both emotionally and intellectually to listen and yield (to God); really listening, helped me stop resisting the necessary changes to becoming a healthy individual. Prayerfully I beseeched the Lord that He would show me the right dietician for me. I then approached my Brother-in-Law with the names of dieticians I had been given. He recognized one name immediately, and strongly recommended her as he knew her personally. God answered our prayers in that this dietician was professional, conscientious and explained my new way of eating in a simple manner with examples. She was exactly what I needed, and God provided her in His time and in His way.

3.0 Things I Could Do:
In God's time and in His way He showed me there were things I could do, if only I was willing.

3.1 Walking
He showed me that I could start a walking routine. I was amazed to find that one way of making sure that I exercised consistently, was just to find out what worked, and then do it. In my case, I can walk right after work around my job. Initially I started walking in the immediate vicinity of my job, but over time, I have increased the distance and by His grace, I now walk approximately two miles in 40 to 45 minutes four to five days a week.

3.2 Drinking Water
It is said we need at least 6 - 8 glasses of water daily. Someone else has said that amount is a minimum. The amount of water we drink should correlate with our weight. Ideally, we should drink half our weight in ounces, which means that if you weight 180 pounds you should drink 90 ounces of water. In my case I needed to drink 1½ gallons of water daily, but I don't think I ever accomplished that. Despite this, God showed me how I could come close to drinking the amount my body required. Its fashionable now to carry bottled water, but it wasn't always so. God showed me that I too could carry water with me and thus I would be able to drink as necessary. One of the unpleasant side-affects of drinking so much water is that I have to go to the restroom more frequently, however, unlike before, my urine is clear and odorless.

3.3 Changing Eating Habits
There is a saying that goes: "Have the breakfast of a King, lunch like a queen, and supper like a pauper." The reason this saying is accurate (and it is) is because we typically expend the greatest amount of energy in the morning. Logically then, we should eat our heartiest meal in the morning, to acquire the caloric energy when it is most needed. God showed me it would be better for me to eat dinner in the morning and breakfast in the evening. In this manner I have been able to use the calories when I needed, and not when I am in bed sleeping (and thus gaining weight).

The biggest change came after being diagnosed with Diabetes. God used the Dietician to show me how I could eat the right portions of food, in the right proportion. I learned that I needed to increase the daily volume of salads, vegetables, and fruits as well as to increase the amount of complex (Low Glycemic) carbohydrates I was consuming. This meant that I could eat less sweet, refined flour products, and that fat and proteins needed decreasing as well. I thank God and give Him praise because I have been satisfied. The very first day when I started the diet, I wondered whether it would be enough, and was pleasantly surprised to find out my plate was full. I next asked God in prayer, "Will it hold me?" God answered my prayer that day. Yes, it did. To Him be all Glory.

4.0 Using For My Good What Is Supposed To Be For Evil.
As I mentioned above I had developed a series of health complications due to obesity. These do not include other types of inconveniences such as finding clothes that fit, being too large to sit in certain chairs, and breaking furniture. I also know first hand what diabetes can do to you. God allowed me to be exposed to other people who did not take care of themselves and I saw how they suffered the consequences. I liken diabetes to AIDS, in that one does not die of AIDS but of the complications. It is the same with Diabetes, and its complications are gangrene which leads to amputation, hypertension, which leads to blindness, strokes and heart attacks, and kidney failure. I did not want to experience these for myself. And thus God used various obesity related ailments to motivate me to lose weight. Currently, I am more willing to follow His plan, because I want to live a healthy life. It is a lifestyle change and it is for a lifetime.

5.0 Repentance
Repentance is a gift from God. It means turning around. God convicted me that I had made the wrong choices regarding my health. I chose to accept this and confess it. Thank God for this gift, because He has changed my heart on the issue of health. This isn't a temporary change until I lose the desired weight, but through God's grace I will never return to the old habits.

6.0 He Has Curbed My Desires
God has taken away my desire for forbidden foods. It is not that I do not like sweet junk food. I just do not have those cravings as I once did. I give the glory to God for this. God has given me the will power to decline eating forbidden foods, eating between meals, consuming the wrong things at the wrong time, and eating food in the wrong proportion. So when I am tempted, by His grace I can say, "No!"

7.0 He has showed me that how I use my time directly affects what and how much I eat.
God has helped me to avoid stressful situations which have often driven me to eat more than I should, and to eat the wrong things. For the same reason He has reminded me to avoid boredom, for I have noted that when bored I crave activity, and unfortunately, eating is my activity of choice to avoid boredom.) God has also convicted me to sleep the required hours I need. If I go to bed to late at night I get hungry, and that means eating unnecessarily. I've learned that I should pray about what I types of things I should do and when I should do them. Of course, I wait for an answer even though sometimes I am restless and don't want to, but I am aware that God knows best.

God wants what is best for each of us. He wants us to enjoy a healthy life, so although we have the freedom to choose to indulge now, we can also choose to grow old with minimal aches and pains. We can have the latter only if we choose to live God's way. However, if we desire, and resist God, He will let us have our own way even though it hurts Him and is to our detriment. It is His greatest desire that we allow Him to transform our characters so that we can be with Him eternally.

8.0 Last Thought

If God is indeed the Lord of my body, then I should consult with Him its needs and functions. Anything that goes into my body -- anything that I do with my body should have His consent and approval. After all I belong to Him, and am merely the steward of my body. If I do not have this attitude here and now, I will not be prepared to enter Heaven. Anything short of this type of disposition is self-righteousness and rebellion. God wants us to be one with Himself as is Christ. Through faith, His attributes can be ours through the gift of His indwelling Holy Spirit. Amen.

Raul Diaz

Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Friday, August 19, 2005

Stewards of Reconciliation

In 2003, a film was released about South-Africa entitled, "In my Country." Based on a auto-biographical book written by journalist Antjie Krogg entitled, "Country of My Skull," the film fleshes out the White South-Afrikaner author's personal experience with the vestiges of Apartheid. Accordingly, the film depicts the author as a journalist assigned to report on cases brought before the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission," or TRC, which was established by the government. The film, which could be described as somewhat of a docudrama, tells not only the story of the journalist's struggle with her White South-Afrikaner family as she provides news coverage of the controversial commission, but the story of an African-American journalist who is struggles with his own anger, and skepticism regarding this new form of justice. While the TRC's appointment and task was documented in newspapers around the world, it seems that not many outside of Africa followed the trials. The commission's principle method for bringing about peace and harmony between Black and White South-Africans was reconciliation. Hearing each case before a room full of Black South-Africans and reporters, the commission asked each Black South-African to sit in front of the room facing the panel with a counselor by his or her side, and describe how the victimization took place. As the victim spoke, the audience listened intently but did not cry, although they groaned audibly. Occasionally the victim cried out in pain as the offending police officer or guard recounted his story of torture and death. You see, in order to receive amnesty, the guilty White South-Afrikaner officer must tell the absolute truth. He and his partner -- if there was one, must describe how the torture, abuse, or murder was perpetrated. Furthermore, the perpetrator was expected to disclose all participants involved in the crime, and to name the authority figures ordered the work done. If it was determined by the TRC that the crime was not politically motivated, the guilty parties were forced to stand trial for their crimes.

One particularly moving story which the film highlighted, occurred when an 8 year old boy walked into his parents' bedroom one night. As he entered the room, he witnessed 2 police officers murder both of his parents, while he stood still, speechless. The TRC counselor had to tell the boy's story for him, for he had not spoken since. There he sat, wide-eyed and tear-less as his story was told. Listening with hushed and bated breath, the audience awaited the officers' story -- and told it they did (the story is too graphic to recount). At the end of his story, the first officer requested amnesty, as if he felt it was his right, as if he deserved it because he had now cooperated with the commission. The second officer however was clearly of a different mindset. As he told his participation in the crime, he added that he was to have shot the boy, but that he could not. "I aimed my gun, but he just stood there calmly looking at me, silent, and I could not." "I disobeyed a direct order in not shooting him, but I just could not." Jumping up from his seat, this police officer said, "at night I see his face, looking at me -- saying nothing." "I can't sleep, I can't eat." At this admission, the officer approached the area where the boy was seated facing him and said, " I would do anything to take back what I have done -- I'll pay in anyway I can -- I'll send him to school and pay his fees, I'll even pay for him to go all the way to college -- I am sorry, so sorry." With that the officer began to sob, as the audience was silent, waiting. The little 8 year old boy who had been listening, stood up and approached the kneeling officer, and after looking at him for a moment, threw his arms around him, hugging him. The audience and panel seemingly through their tears, approves. Although the means of forgiveness and amnesty have been provided through the TRC by the government, it is really the 8 year old boy who is the steward of forgiveness, and reconciliation that day.

How many of us consider ourselves stewards of reconciliation? Unfortunately, not many of us. The sad truth is that only a few of us would choose to forgive a wrong of such magnitude as has been experienced by the Black South-African victims. Yes, as Christians we've professed Christ, but we still but seem to have difficulty forgiving even minute injustices. Yet Christ wants us to be ambassadors or stewards for Him. In 2 Cor. 5 20, the scripture actually calls us "ambassadors for Christ," and "ministers of reconciliation" (see verse 18). It seems that just as Christ has been an ambassador or steward on behalf of the Father to us, that He wants us to follow in His footsteps. This concept is of such importance, that we should take a look at it in 2 Corinthians 5. It reads as follows:

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Cor. 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
2 Cor. 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Friends, although forgiving and reconciling seems impossibly difficult to us -- our natures finding it extremely distasteful -- yet "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners" ( Rom. 5:8). So, if we are "in Christ," He works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure, and His commands are not grievous (Phil. 2:13, I John 5:3. What is God's command? That we dispense His grace, and tell the world that Christ has already reconciled them to Himself at His death on Calvary.

As Christians, one of the first things that we learned is that God created the world, so it all belongs to Him, and that He is the rightful owner. We also learned that since He bought us back (redeemed us), we are to be His stewards or managers, and this is where the concept of tithe and offering comes in. But, how about thinking about stewardship in a new manner. How about considering ourselves not only as stewards of the material or tangible goods, such as land, money, and talents that He's given us, but as stewards of the fruit of the gospel. What is the fruit of the gospel you say? Why -- its reconciliation and forgiveness.

God has said as our lesson quotes, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights... (James 1:17 NKJV). He is offering you and me the work of perhaps a higher order than we've previously thought -- stewardship at a higher level than we've yet known. I don't know about you, but I think the offer is worth the risks. So, how about you, will you take it?

Maria Greaves-Barnes
The Special Insights web page resides at:

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Art of Listening

We have probably seen this familiar scene on TV or in the movies: the camera is focused on an object of the room, while we hear an individual speaking of his or her personal and intimate emotions and thoughts out loud. The camera slowly spans the room to show us who is speaking and where he or she is seated, or in this case, lying down. Continuing slowly to span the room, the cameras stops upon the frame of an older man with grey hair. He is sitting facing an individual who is lying down on a couch. The man, apparently a Psychoanalyst, is writing something on a notepad, as the patient speaks. Moving again, the camera comes to rest just behind the Psychoanalyst, and gives us a view of what he is writing. More often than not, in film, what the camera shows the viewer is that the Psychoanalyst is writing a shopping list. And when he is not writing that list, or planning a menu, he is doodling on the page. So much for hundreds of dollars an hour for someone to listen empathetically. Hopefully, this is only a satirical portrayal of a psychoanalytic session and as such is the exception. Unfortunately the satire could also be about us; we're the non-therapists who do not truly listen, but remain preoccupied while others are speaking.

Listening is more than just hearing spoken words. It is a task that requires the
focus of our full attention to the person speaking. True listening is actually
empathetic listening. It is listening with the intent to experience the other person's point of view as well as the emotions they are feeling. As well as reflecting those emotions and thoughts back as we respond. Empathetic listening is what is referred to by the expressions, "put yourself in their shoes, or walk a mile in their moccasins." While we know these sayings, it is still difficult for us to put them into practice, for it means that we must make a space for the other person in our thoughts. Yet most of the time, we are so preoccupied that we are not free to listen. We are so tired, hungry,or weary, that we are not even willing to listen deeply and actively.

What empathetic listening is not: is not paying attention just enough to hear a problem and provide a solution. It isn't "self- interestedly" hearing the other person drone on in the background of our mind, while we wait for them to finish speaking (so that we can speak). And it isn't waiting to hear what they have to say, just to form a rebuttal. Seemingly unbeknownst to the majority of us who listen this way, rarely is anyone awaiting our particular solution or clever answer. Rarely is the person we're pretending to listen to, unaware -- they are desperate to be heard. Ironically, while we listen to others in this rather selfish, self-centered way, we usually really want others to listen to, and hear us.

Its true that actively listening while taking in the other person's words, intonations, physical gestures and facial expressions is hard work. Its also true that we can't do it alone. It takes superhuman strength, supernatural love -- like the love of God--to make empathetic, active listening a reality in our lives. Christ has said that with Him all things are possible and that those who are in Him are strengthened to do all things-- and that means empathetically listening. By the faith of Jesus, this is possible, for all things are possible to those who believe (Mark 9:23, Mark 11:23, 24 and Phil. 4:13).

Throughout the scripture we find that Christ Himself, listened empathetically. He listened both to His Father, and to the people. Christ even listened to the Pharisees. He understood their position and what led them there. Unfortunately, the Pharisees didn't listen to Jesus. Oh they heard Him all right, but they did not listen. They did not care for the context of His message. They did not care for the deeper meaning His words implied. And they certainly did not want to know what listening further would require of them. Yet for all these things, they heard enough to be found guilty for what they could have known and chose not to.

Christ has given many warnings to His followers through the Word. He has
admonished us to hear, and to be willing to do all of His good pleasure (Mark 4:9; Phil. 2:13). He has encouraged us by saying that those who have ears to hear (and the seed falls on good ground) bear fruit aplenty, and build on the rocky foundation of the principles of His kingdom (Mark 4:9, 23, 24; Matt. 7: 24-27; Luke 12:32). And in turn we can identify with the Psalmist as he implores the Lord to listen: Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications Ps. 230:2).

Following is a quote from the Adult teacher's lesson from one who learned to listen well.

"The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists
of listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His
Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen
to them. It is God's love for us that He not only gives us His Word
but also lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our
brother when we listen to him. . . . But Christians have forgotten
that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who
is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We
should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God."
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (San Francisco: Harper and Row,
1954), pp. 97-99. From the Adult Teacher Sabbath School Bible study
Guide page 88.)

Friends, let's be willing to be made willing to listen. Our salvation as well as that of others depends on it.
Maria Greaves-Barnes & Raul Diaz

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Friday, August 05, 2005

A Toddler's Prayer

The story is told of a family with 2 little girls who were living in South Africa. Deciding to go on a 300 hundred mile journey to visit friends for the weekend, the car was filled with gas, and off the family went. How the days flew by as the family visited their friends, and the children played with one another. On the way home, the gas began to run low. Frightened, the adults watched the gas gage, wondering whether they would make it home. You see, at that time in South Africa fuel could not be purchased Monday through Friday between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., nor on weekends. Yet here the family was with a dangerously low tank of gas. Still, it seemed that by driving slowly, they might make it home. But this was not to be. In the dark, with only the visibility of the high beams, the father took a wrong and the family ran out of gas in a deserted industrial area. There were no persons in sight, no houses or cars, only factory after factory. Wordlessly, the family looked at one another and decided to pray. The adults prayed first, then the 6-year old, and finally the 2-year old. Because the toddler could not talk well, all she said was "Au-au, au-au, au-au. Amen." But if you could have seen the _expression on her face as she prayed her simple and wordless prayer -- you would have been amazed. She prayed with such sincerity, such seriousness, that it a was joy to behold. When the family opened their eyes, there before them was the direct answer to their prayers. A young couple who attended the family's church had been driving around when they suddenly decided to drive to that area, and then turn around and go home. What a shock it was for them to see this family they knew, stranded right in front of them. Upon learning the source of the trouble, the young couple willingly siphoned fuel from their vehicle into the van. With the difficulty resolved, both families made their way home praising God. Its amazing isn't it, that God not only hears, understands and answers our prayers, but that He even responds to the prayer of toddlers who may not speak intelligibly. What a wonderful God!

The scripture says in Romans 8:26 that, "the Spirit helps our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but that the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." As we examine this scripture, we find that one of the roles and functions of the Holy Spirit is to help us when we are by definition, "weak or frail." (the word "infirmities" can be understood to mean "weak or frail). How thoughtful of the Father to provide for our needs before we are even aware. How grateful you and I can be for the intercession of the Holy Spirit on our behalf (according to the will of the Father). In our story, was the family 'weak and frail?' Yes, they were, for they were in a dangerous situation -- alone and without help. Through their prayers, and the Holy Spirit's intercession, help was sent.

If we look at our scripture a little further, we'll notice that it says that 'we don't know what we should pray for...' and yet it implies that we should pray. Referring to our story, while the family knew to pray for deliverance, the toddler didn't did she? She didn't know they were out of gas, and that they were stranded Yet her prayer was answered just the same as was the rest of the family's. How amazing, that even though we don't know what we should pray for, our prayers are still answered, because of the Spirit's groaning on our behalf.

While reading Romans 8:26, I found it interesting to note the word "ought" in the text, and I wondered why it was there. What could it possibly mean in light of
praying. Upon looking up the word "ought" in the dictionary, this meaning of the text became clear as such: while we don't know the things that we should pray for, we 'should' know them. How can I say this? Because the word "ought," according to the dictionary (The American Century Dictionary) is an "auxiliary verb which expresses duty; rightness; advisability; or probability." In other words it is our duty and right for us to know what it is that we should pray for. The question is, does the Holy Spirit help us if we don't even know what is in our hearts to pray? Well, let's see. In our story, the toddler prayed seriously and sincerely without words. Although she knew that something was wrong and needed fixing, she did not know that she should petition the Lord for deliverance. Can it be said that she prayed with full understanding? I doubt it. And yet God in His mercy and compassion, heard those prayers of the stranded family, and sent a couple to aid them. God is so kind, that not only did He send help, but He sent persons that the family knew, and attended church with. God's intervention served to answer not only the family's prayers for deliverance, but the toddler's prayers as well. You see, it's likely that although the toddler probably did not understand the need for divine deliverance from the unsafe situation, that she did sense the family's need for relieve from the anxiety that the situation caused. Her five senses were probably in working order, and she could perceive the anxiety in her family's voice and as well as see the expressions of fear in their faces. As such, she groaned or babbled her prayer for relief from the stressful situation she was observing. Friends, God is so wise that He knows the things we are praying for, even before we utter them.

A question that often follows comments on God's Omniscience is "if He knows everything then why should we pray?" The best answer for our question can be found in Steps to Christ on page 94. It says: Christ's humanity made prayer a necessity and a privilege. He found comfort and joy in communion with His Father. And if the Saviour of all men, the Son of God, felt the need of prayer, how much more should feeble sinful mortals feel the necessity of fervent, constant prayer." If Christ Himself depended on the Word and prayer to remain connected to His Father, know His Father's will, and express His needs and desires, how much more should we. If you doubt that Christ expressed His needs and desires to the Father through prayer, remember that He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane that His cup of suffering would pass. And later on He prayed that His followers would be one with Him and the Father. Its a fact folks, Christ prayed about His needs to His Father -- not merely silently, but out loud -- so that the disciples (and we who follow) might know that He believed that the Father always heard and answered Him. (He wants us to
believe the same about our petitions).

If we doubt, and many of us are tempted to, that the Father hears and answers us, just remember I John 5:14, 15. It says:

I John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us:
I John 5:15 And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.

So resistant and reluctant are we to open up our true selves to our Father, that we neglect prayer. One result of that fear of exposing ourselves and being vulnerable, is that we don't even dare ask God for the things that we need or desire. Without asking, we can't receive. Yet, God is respectful, so much so, that even though He knows our longings, He will not interfere unless we desire Him to. Instead, He awaits our requests that He may answer them with good things. God has a storehouse of blessings that He has not given, because the blessings were not asked for. Despite this, He is more willing to give us good gifts than parents are willing to give good things to their children (Matt. 7:11). While some folks get hung up on having to reveal themselves to God, others are often hung up on the "if we ask according to His will," part. They feel that they must know if their request is God's will before they even ask. But how is it possible to know what God's will is if we do not ask Him?

In this great day of Atonement, Christ is prompting us through the Holy Spirit to allow Him to examine our hearts and reveal to us our hidden desires and sins. This may be one of the reasons we are so reluctant to pray -- we're afraid of having our selfishness exposed. Well friends, He already knows we are selfish, and we certainly won't become any less selfish by ourselves, if left to ourselves. Because Christ took human nature upon Himself, and was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin, He makes a great mediator, and an understanding High Priest! He knows our physical, mental, and emotional frailties. He knows our temptations and even our secret desire to take His place; yet He loves us still. There is nothing we cannot take to God. He will not shun us, nor leave us (unless we resist and shove Him away). Never will He abandon us because of our sinfulness. He will only leave because we have told Him definitively that we will have no part of Him -- forever. What a great, merciful, thoughtful and loving God we serve!

Friends, if you're reluctant to believe that, just read the scripture (Luke 18:16) and follow up with the chapter in Desire of Ages where Christ is telling the disciples "Let the children come unto Me... ." You know, very few people who genuinely love children (and pets) are hostile and judgmental. Children and pets stay away from people like that. And if children and pets loved Jesus (who of course is the express image of God the Father and the Spirit), then He must certainly be gentle and welcoming, for children gravitate to persons like that. Last but certainly not least, Christ said that the kingdom of heaven is composed of persons who are like little children. We adults usually interpret this to mean that we must become trusting and forgive others easily. While that's true, did you ever notice that children ask adults for the things that they desire? Even if they know its selfish, they still ask -- even though they think they might not get what they want, they ask. Our Father says He's adopted us into His family, we're His heirs, His children. If we really believe the scripture, let's not be reluctant, let's ask the Father for our heart's desire. After all, He is (more than) willing to give exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think. Hey, I'm asking, how about you?

Maria Greaves-Barnes


Prayer Through The Sanctuary

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