Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Opened up for all to see--and pray

5:51 p.m. Today's project was to facilitate discussion with my Bible study group. The ladies seemed to like dividing into smaller groups, saying it gave everyone a chance to share. As I did last week, I moved from group to group, participating after each one had her chance to answer a question.

One of the questions in James: Mercy Triumphs was to describe an occasion when God turned our bitter waters into sweet. One friend shared the breaking open of a secret grudge she'd held to the strengthening of a friendship; the Lord helped another to realize that the reason for her bitterness was largely exaggerated and self-concocted; another felt that instant confession behooves her when bitterness tempts her to hold a grudge, quoting Jesus' warning in Mark 11:25-26:

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.

When my turn came, I brought up the fact that I had to confess and forsake my heart's severe bitterness publicly. "That's right," Barb cried out, "We just read that teachers come under greater judgment!" (We'd had James 3:1 in our homework this week). I proceeded to tell them, and Michelle remembered, how as the substitute teacher for the large Monday night Bible study session, the topic (obviously planned by the Holy Spirit) was unforgiveness!  And the Lord had dealt with me seriously earlier in the week when He had called me to write a letter of forgiveness to the person who put my mother on hospice just as she was beginning to recover from Guillaume-Barre disease, had her removed from Loma Linda Medical Center against my and my sister's wishes, and set her up in her own home to die. Many in the women's ministry had been praying me through this long trial, and were horrified at my mother's death. I held bitter hatred in my heart, no doubt about it. Yet, we know from I John 3:20,

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

And God would not leave me in that bitter acid bath! He told me to write the letter, and I obeyed, writing it from my heart. The facts did not change, but the Holy Spirit changed me!

There is something about openness with family, friends, church family, and colleagues that may make others a tad uncomfortable, in the sense of not knowing what to say in response. We've all experienced this. But is it NECESSARY to always have something to say? I do not believe it is. What we need to do is pray. This is what I read in my Spurgeon devotional, based on James 5:16's exhortation to "pray for one another:"

Remember again, that intercessory prayer is exceedingly prevalent. What wonders it has wrought! The Word of God teems with its marvellous deeds. Believer, thou hast a mighty engine in thy hand, use it well, use it constantly, use it with faith, and thou shalt surely be a benefactor to thy brethren.

As the precious handmade quilt above suggests, let us accept Christ's invitation to a deeper life, characterized by confession of sin, openness with our brothers and sisters in the faith, and prayer for one another! 

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