Appealing to God for Mercy

—by Charles Chowa, CCC member

To you I call, O Lord my Rock;
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

I have been reading through the Psalms and I am amazed at their richness and beauty. I am also challenged daily to grow my faith in God!

This week, Psalm 28 really put on the pressure for me to live a transparent life before the Lord. The first two verses helped me to understand that if I claim to love God so much, I must persist in appealing to him to speak to me when he is silent. Unfortunately, I seem to give up easily when my prayers go unanswered in a short period of time. Not so the psalmist!

The psalmist, king David, cries out for God to speak and answer his prayer. It can be deduced from the psalm that David had been praying for a long time without getting an answer. However, David did not give up, like I usually do. Instead he follows up with a good argument by reminding the Lord that if he remains silent, “I will be like those who go down to the pit.” I appreciated a few things from David’s example:

1.    David’s importunity: David was persistent in his prayer because he imagined himself standing at the edge of a pit, about to topple into it to certain death, and God as the only one who was nearby to hear his terrified screams for help. If I viewed my problems that way I am sure I would never give up asking for help until God answered.

2.    David’s attitude: David was not praying arrogantly or belligerently as if God owed him anything! God does not owe anyone anything. David was aware of this and so was humbly asking for mercy and help. I think subconsciously I feel that God owes me his love and therefore his help. After all, am I not his child? Have I not been joined to Jesus Christ and become an adopted son? Why then does my Father not answer my prayer right now? David, even as a man after God’s own heart, did not presume upon God’s kindness, but prayed with humility. He says in verse two, “hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help!” His attitude is that God is free to answer my prayers or to withhold his help, but I will continue begging for his mercy.

3.    The basis of David’s appeal: David says “Hear my cry for mercy…as I lift up my hands toward your most holy place.” This refers to the holy place of the tabernacle where the ark of the covenant was kept, and where the blood sacrifices were offered for the nation’s sin on the day of atonement. David’s appeal to God through the most holy place is an indication that David acknowledged that his prayers would only be answered on the basis of shed blood. David was a sinner whose sins needed to be atoned for before he could approach the Almighty! The eternal equivalent of which is the mercy seat of Jesus where we find eternal atonement for our sins.

This psalm taught me not to give up, but instead to pursue God in humility and faith. Every situation I encounter may be likened to a pit, and I need God to help me to avoid it or navigate it safely. Yes, he has made many precious promises in his word, yet his command to me is to come in humility, and persistence, asking for mercy!

Familiar and Outrageous Friendship

    by Byron Peters, Pastor

So what marks Christian friendship? Lots of laughs and heart-to-hearts to be sure. But truly Christ-centered friendships are perfectly comfortable with the mundane, while at the same time utterly committed to the “outrageous” truth of the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things. Familiar and outrageous.

Today Ruby Bea and I attended the funeral of a dear friend, Beverly Headen. Beverly was the Client Services Director at PSS (Pregnancy Support Services). Though God only had her there for a couple of years, in that time she became a dear friend and was, for us as for so many, a true “counselor” who lived an outrageously Christ-centered life.

The New Testament book of Third John gives us a peek into one of these wonderful Christian friendships. The Apostle John writes his friend Gaius, and we get to read over his shoulder:

The elder,

To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

See the warm, simple familiarity? “My dear friend, whom I love in the truth.” John and Gaius were very close. They were dear friends. Note well that warm greeting and honest prayer for the simple enjoyment of good health. Then that wonderful blanket prayer, “…and that all may go well with you.”

But it wasn’t just warm and familiar. John and Gaius were also engaged in an outrageously eternal work. Gaius encouraged John in the truth of God’s Word. He was also a very hospitable person. When the missionaries came through town, he willingly invited them into his home and cared for their needs. Gaius stands in sharp contrast to Diotrephes, an arrogant bully that John promises to deal with later.

But it’s the last part of that prayer that grabbed my attention this morning. The Apostle John wraps the embrace of his prayer directly around Gaius’ soul. “I prayeven as your soul is getting along well.”

What does a soul that is getting along well look like? A true friend sees it in you and prays it into you. A getting-along-well soul is both familiar with Jesus and outrageously committed to the obedience of faith. It talks with him all day long, soaks long in his Word, and will take a costly stand no matter how much the world hates you for it.

Beverly demonstrated all of this. After years in a corporate environment, God called her into ministry. She sold the dream house and car, got a Masters in Biblical Counseling, and started counseling young women whom the world had cast off.

Ruby Bea would often hear Beverly say, “Only God can do these things.” Beverly knew that, because she knew Jesus, because she knew his word, and then stepped out in radical obedience. And it’s those “outrageous” friends that are the most precious, isn’t it? Like dear Gaius. A man who loved the truth, loved the Apostle, and opened his heart and home to others.

May God make us familiar and outrageous friends.

Confessions of a Mom

Kathryn Eriksen, Director of Children and Youth

I mostly write these Connection articles under my “Children’s Director Hat,” but that wasn’t what was on my heart when I sat down to write. So today I’m wearing my “Mom” hat, and probably only writing this article because I know I’m going to China for the next two weeks and won’t have to see any of you face to face.

In Bible study this fall I am reading through the book of Philippians. And there’s one verse that always catches me when I read it.

3:17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

Paul uses his words to encourage the Philippians to work out their salvation, live a life worthy of the gospel, and even encourages them to walk like him. I so very badly want to be able to tell my children the same thing. Live for Christ, follow me and I’ll show you how, I can be your example. But so many times I fall short.

Priorities. I have a really hard time keeping my priorities where I want them to be because there are so many things pulling at me.

My health. I have genetically bad cholesterol - thanks Mom and Grandma. Seriously bad. So exercise, my diet, it’s all really important. Really important. That takes time.

My kids' education. I love my kids' schools and I want them to be better. I volunteer as room mom, I help make photocopies, I read to the class. Really important. That takes time.

My job. I love my job! I get to help plan curriculum, help parents teach their kids about Christ, plan fun outings to serve the community. Really important. That takes time.

My husband and my house. I love being a wife and a homemaker. Really important. That takes time.

Are you seeing a trend? Everything is important, everything takes time.

It’s so easy for me to pray inconsistently, study God’s word inconsistently, meditate on Jesus’ teachings inconsistently. Unsurprisingly then, my kids mimic that sentiment. So when it was graciously pointed out to me that my daughter, three weeks in a row, told her Sunday School teacher she didn’t know when she could possibly do her homework, memorize scripture, or pray because she was “too busy.” It about broke my heart. I realized this is my model! I’m too busy.

So Byron’s sermon was very personal to me this week. “Grow UP!” I am an adult and my life will live out my priorities. I will not grow, nor be the model I want to be, without my own personal spiritual exercise. To be the mom and wife I long to be, my relationship with Christ must be my priority. And thankfully the Spirit is there in my heart to guide me and grow me in that walk.