Our Highest Allegiance

“If we are living lives in which God does not have our highest allegiance, then we will use prayer instrumentally, selfishly, simply to try to get the things that may be already ruining our lives.”~~Timothy Keller

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Good morning. It is Thursday, September 24, 2015. Pre-Friday.

Today’s word of the day, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is owling. There are several definitions of this noun, one of them having absolutely nothing to do with owls. “1.a. The hooting of an owl. b. The action of imitating the hooting of an owl, esp. to discover the whereabouts of birds when hunting them. 2. The practice of smuggling wool or sheep out of England; the trade of an owler. In early use freq. attrib., as owling trade, etc. 3. The activity of observing owls in their natural environment, esp. at night.” Sheep smuggling?

Today is Punctuation Day. Use it, people! Use it correctly!

I had a pretty good day, yesterday. Work went pretty smoothly, although I did stay an extra hour. But last night, around 12:45, I awoke with a wave of nausea. I was able to fight it off, but didn’t sleep well for at least an hour after that. Finally, I went back to sleep, but I’m really groggy this morning.

Tonight is Christi’s Huddle night, and we will have our usual crockpot Mexican soup tonight.

The Rangers had a decisive win over the A’s, last night, 10-3. The Astros lost to the Angels, so the Rangers now lead the American League West by 3 games. The magic number is 8, at this point, but the Astros have the day off, so there is no chance of clinching the division in Houston, over the weekend. As long as the Rangers keep winning, though, it won’t matter what the other teams do.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Heart Aflame)

O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac,
which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant,

Psalm 105:6-10

“If we duly ponder our calling, we will undoubtedly find that God has not been induced from anything out of himself to prefer us to others, but that he was pleased to do so purely from his own free grace.” (p 268)

The next, and final, touchstone of prayer is “Surrender–Prayer Requires and Creates Surrender of the Whole Life in Love to God.”

That is a mouthful, and, if interpreted wrongly, could lead one to great stress and anxiety over prayer. Psalm 66:18 says, If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. I have, personally, listened to preachers who would have us believe that this means if we have “unconfessed sin” in our lives, God won’t hear our prayers. Conversely, that philosophy would lead us to believe that we can merit God’s answers through “greater moral purity.” But everything we have learned about prayer, thus far, would contradict that idea. So, what does it mean? We see more instruction about prayer in the book of James, chapter 4, verse 3. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

We understand that, while faith is necessary to receive our salvation in Christ, our faith does not “accomplish or merit our salvation.” It is necessary that we have a “commitment to put God first and love him supremely . . . before God can grant our prayers without harming us. If we are living lives in which God does not have our highest allegiance, then we will use prayer instrumentally, selfishly, simply to try to get the things that may be already ruining our lives.” (Emphasis mine)

What James means, in James 1:6-8, when he speaks of the double-minded man, is not that we have to be psychologically perfect, with absolutely no doubt, to get our prayers answered. What it does mean, is that we must have our minds made up that God is our God, and that we “are going to ditch all competing concerns the moment you can discern them.” It means that we embrace Psalm 73:25, Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. J.I. Packer adds, “Nothing, that is, that I would not consent to lose if adhering to God required it.”

Who can pray, then? “Every born-again believer without a single exception,” says Packer. Keller adds, “Real believers, though they are profoundly aware of how imperfectly they love God, nonetheless want to love him supremely.” Even though we are capable of “great lapses into sin and battles with doubt,” there had been a fundamental change in our nature. It is this change, wrought by God alone, in Jesus Christ, that is necessary for us to pray prayers that are not “shallow and selfish.”

Let us think back to Augustine’s letter to Anicia, and his statement that “you should not begin to pray for all you want until you realize that in God you have all you need.” As this section comes to a close, it ends with this statement: “Prayer–though it is often draining, even an agony–is in the long term the greatest source of power that is possible.”

Tomorrow, I will give a summary of all of the “touchstones” of prayer.

Father, help me have this kind of surrender in my life. Help me to successfully know that you are all I need, that my prayers might be unselfish and not shallow. Teach me to love you supremely. At least you have placed the desire in my heart. Help my faith to be such that I see competing desires and am able to push them away, in favor of your grace and your great and precious promises.

I pray for this day, that our trip to work and home will be safe. May our work day be free from anxiety, and help us to display your Kingdom while we work. I pray for Christi’s Huddle group tonight, that they will reach a little closer to you and what it means to be your disciples. May your grace and mercy rain down on the rest of our family today.

Come, Lord Jesus.

May God have our highest allegiance, in order that our prayers might be the most powerful.

Grace and peace, friends.

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