Saturday, March 8, 2014

In Proper Order



Have you seen the “giraffe riddle” on Facebook? If you post a wrong answer, you’re supposed to change your profile picture for one day to that of a giraffe. Here is a modified version:

 “It’s 7 AM, the doorbell rings, and you suddenly remember your in-laws are coming over for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread and cheese. What is the first thing you open?”

When I described this riddle to our son, who loves gourmet cooking, he went through an elaborate description of various recipes he could concoct with those ingredients. Sadly, none of the food items is the correct answer, so he would have been stuck with a giraffe on his Facebook page in place of his handsome face.

The point of the riddle, of course, is to distract us with useless information. When the doorbell rings and your in-laws arrive for a breakfast date you forgot, the first thing you’d better open is the door! Actually, someone pointed out that before you even open the door, you’d better open your eyes!  And after your guests come in, you’ll need to open the refrigerator and pantry before you open the first container of food.

Which brings me to my point – if we don’t do things in the proper order, and if we get distracted by enticing but unimportant options, we are bound to fail. The result may be ludicrous, awkward, or disastrous, but it will never be the optimal outcome. The world tantalizes us with so many temptations (Proverbs 22:5; Ecclesiastes 7:26) that we may fail to put first things first by seeking God’s will in all that we do (Luke 22:42).

My husband and I were at a crowded garage sale once when I heard a woman, a few tables away, give some advice to her friend: “When all else fails, pray!”

“Why not pray first, instead of as a last resort?” The words flew from my mouth before I even realized it, and I had no idea where they would land, and with what effect. Someone yelled, “Preach it, sister!” and I felt led to tell everyone about our pastor, who needed prayer for terminal cancer. Within moments, a group of Christians had gathered in a circle of linked hands for an impromptu prayer meeting!

When we place our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as the only Way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), His Holy Spirit enters our heart (2 Corinthians 1:22), giving us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). We have access to all His wisdom, knowledge, power and love, and we have the awesome privilege of instantaneous transport to His throne of grace, where we can boldly pray (Hebrews 4:16, asking for wisdom, mercy and grace and knowing that He delights in giving it (Matthew 7:11; James 1:17).

So why do we neglect this priceless resource, turning to it only when all other options leave us empty? Rather than relying on His omniscience (Psalm 139:1-6), why do we seek counsel from worldly friends who will tell us what we want to hear instead of Godly advice? Why do we run around pointlessly trying futile solutions in our own flesh, when He is the Master problem-solver? (Romans 8:28)

Priorities should order prayer life – seeking His face first before we embark on a new venture (1 Chronicles 16:11; Psalm 27:8), and proceeding only if He clearly leads in that direction, rather than doing what we want and then hoping to get His blessing after the fact. We should pray before we even get out of bed in the morning, putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18) before we fall prey to the devil’s traps, lies and empty promises (John 8:44).

When we pray, do we thank and praise Him first (Luke 11:2), confess our sins (Luke 11:4; 1 John 1:9), and intercede for others before we bring our personal requests? Or do we just bombard Him with our own desires before even considering whether they are aligned with His will? (James 4:2-3; Luke 22:42)

Priorities should order our whole life, not just our prayer life.  If we seek Him first, and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), He will give us all that we need, because He knows what is best before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8). This includes not only our physical needs (Psalm 37:25), but our ministry needs (1 Thessalonians 5:24), provided our motives in ministry are to glorify Him and not to draw attention to ourselves (John 3:30).

Paul brought this out for when he provided detailed guidance as to the speaking of tongues, saying “Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Tongues were given to the early church as a sign gift so that those needing a sign to believe could see God’s great power. But it was intended for the sole purposes of educating members of the church and glorifying God.

The tongues spoken were actual languages understood by the listeners (Acts 2:6-11). If the listeners did not understand the language spoken, there was to be an interpreter. In that way the church body could be edified, or instructed, by those who prophesied one at a time (1 Corinthians 14: 31) and in order, so that there would be peace rather than confusion (v. 33). In no case was it to glorify the speaker or to make him appear to be more “spiritual” than one who did not have the gift of tongues. 

Order has always been important in worship, even in Old Testament times when God prescribed the order of what should be set on the table before Him (Exodus 40:4).Now that we are in the Church Age of Christian liberty, should we not still do things decently and in order, giving Him the preeminence (Colossians 1:18), rather than interspersing jokes, personal anecdotes, and even worldly theatrics with prayer, praise and preaching?

The order of steps we take determines our direction and ultimately our destination. If we take one step forward, one step back, and three to the side, we spend a lot of energy but go nowhere. (But if we’re dancing, we could at least turn it into a cha-cha!) God promises to guide us through the dance of life and to direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5,6) if we first trust in Him and acknowledge Him in all we do. Then He will order our steps in His Word, keeping us from sin (Psalm 119:133) and bringing us delight in the journey (Psalm 37:23).

As we speak and write, the proper order of our words is essential to convey the correct meaning (Job 33:5), particularly in English where noun forms do not change depending on their usage. “The hunter killed the bear” means something very different from “The bear killed the hunter.”

Paul was in the habit of beginning and ending his letters by acknowledging and thanking Jesus Christ and God the Father and blessing his readers with God’s grace and peace (1 Corinthians 1:1-10; 2 Corinthians 1:1-3; Galatians 1-3; Ephesians 1:1-3, etc.). What a wonderful example to follow, rather than starting Facebook posts or other communications with complaining, bragging, or vulgarity.

Praise God not only that He has ordered history, but that He has revealed to us the order of key events we are eagerly awaiting! Because Christ arose in His glorified body, all born-again believers will follow Him in their resurrected body to eternal life! (1 Corinthians 15:23). Look up (Luke 21:28), for before long, Christ shall descend from heaven with a shout and with the trump of God! The dead in Christ shall rise first, then believers still living shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and we shall forever be with the Lord! (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)


© 2014 Laurie Collett
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32 comments:

  1. Hi Laurie! You never cease to amaze me. Your comment started a prayer circle? God used you in a powerful way because you were willing to overcome your fear and speak the truth. What a witness you were! (and are!)

    I could write a book on distraction. I can think of ANYTHING when I don't want to do something, or I am afraid. I need to hear more stories like this. It's empowering.
    Bless you!
    Ceil

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    1. Dear Ceil,
      The time of our late pastor's illness was an amazing time in our church -- a time of revival, daily fervent prayer, boldness to witness, yielding to the Spirit. He was such a wonderful example in all of these and more. We won't know until we get to Glory how many people were saved as a result of his testimony -- on his blog, in the pulpit, and in youth conferences he traveled to even when he was near death.
      Thanks as always for your kind words and encouragement. May you have a blessed week in Him!
      Laurie

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  2. Hi Laurie,
    I love prayer too, and it will always lead us into all truth so that we shall know the mind of Christ. For His ways are not our ways, neither are His thoughts our thoughts, and the things of God are foolishness to the carnal mind. I love the way He directs our paths as individuals with scripture. God bless you for lifting scripture up.

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    1. Amen, Brenda! Prayer is our path to His throne, and His Word illuminates our path. Praise God that in His infinite wisdom, power, and love, He works all things together for our good and His glory!
      Many blessings to you,
      Laurie

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  3. Dear Laurie,
    That incident in the garage seems to be truly American. When you responded with, "Why not pray first, instead of as the last resort?" the reaction was, "Preach it, sister!"
    Here in the UK, and particularly here in southern England, your request would have most likely be met with a wall of silence. Maybe if the respondant had extra courage, he or she would come up with something like, "Who are you to stick your nose in?" Or "Are you trying to be funny?"
    It is a sad fact that here in England, we all like to think ourselves as sophisticated, and our reserve the sign of a high stake in human evolution. After all, a sporadic prayer meeting in a secular public venue such as a garage sale would never occur here in the UK!
    Yet we wonder why most of us go about our business with a permanent frown across our foreheads.
    As for Facebook, anyone who takes that site with a degree of seriousness needs indeed to see a shrink, lol!
    Another excellent post.
    God bless.

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    1. Dear Frank,
      Praise God that He opens doors for us to witness, and praise Him when we yield to the Holy Spirit and walk through those open doors! I'm sorry to hear that the UK is largely a hostile environment for this, and it is rapidly becoming that way in many settings in the US as well. (The garage sale incident was several years ago).
      You are so right -- there is joy in serving the Lord and praising His Name, and discontent when there is no hope of eternal life.
      I believe that Facebook, like the Internet in general, is a tool to be used for good or for evil, or just to waste time. I use it to post Scripture and links to blog posts whenever the Spirit shows me the opportunity.
      Thanks as always for sharing your perspective, experience, and encouragement.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  4. First things first and of course - open the door and let in your relatives. We too must open the door of our heart and invite Jesus to dwell inside us. I loved your example of the comment and the exchange of "preach it sister." Then all gathering in prayer for your Pastor. What a blessing. Thank you for sharing with us at "Tell Me a Story."

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    1. So true, Hazel -- we must open the door of our heart and invite Him in, then all of Heaven is opened to us. thank you for hosting & for your lovely comment.
      May you have a blessed week in Him!
      Laurie

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  5. As usual Laurie - excellent words. I am becoming more bold to speak out about my faith. Usually the hot tub is the best place to start conversations. As soon as I say, "I am a writer", people ask, "What do you write?" That opens the door.

    I found your comment: rather than interspersing jokes, personal anecdotes, and even worldly theatrics with prayer, praise and preaching?
    very interesting. I wondered why I didn't really like hearing jokes in sermons - I guess I wanted to get to the meat of the sermon - and not listen to jokes. But I do know that personal testimonies can be used effectively to bring the Gospel to the hears of people. What do you think?
    Blessings,
    Janis

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    1. What is your Facebook page? Mine is authorjaniscox.
      Blessings,
      Janis

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    2. Hi Janis,
      Thanks for your kind words and testimony about witnessing! I agree that personal testimonies are a wonderful way to spread the Gospel. The moment someone is saved, they can be an excellent witness to what God has done in their life, and that can bring others to Christ. Examples in the Bible include the woman at the well, Andrew, etc. We don't need a Divinity degree or years of Bible study to start being an effective witness.
      What I was referring to is starting sermons with a joke or personal story that has nothing to do with the point of the sermon. Even though it may be mildly amusing, it distracts from the power of the Word.
      Blessings to you,
      Laurie

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    3. Janis, my Facebook name is Laurie Barclay (my MD name).

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  6. I read a quote the other day that says, "Have you prayed about it as much as you've talked about it?" It's so true! Prayer should be the first thing we do!

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    1. Amen, Sola Scriptura! Paul told us to pray without ceasing, in which case it would always be the first thing we do! Thanks so much for your visit & comment.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  7. Order is definitely extremely important to Yahweh! I definitely see what you are saying. Keeping Him first is so important in all that we do. Thank you so much for sharing this with us at Countdown in Style! Don't forget to stop by Friday to see if you are featured :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Brittnel, for hosting & for your comment! May we always give Him the preeminence.
      Many blessings to you,
      Laurie

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  8. In last days I experienced temptation. Last situation in Europe is a bit nervous, so I started to think about defence. And fear, because I know war only from books about WW2.
    But today I realised, that I'm like apostles in boat during storm. Jesus is with His children and He will not experience more than we are able to do.
    This is example of this riddle - media show different views and situation, but God is with me and His other children!
    Greetings from warm and sunny south Poland :)

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    1. Praise God, Zim -- sometimes He calms the storm, and sometimes He calms His children. Either way, He is in control and He will work all things together for the good of those who know Him.
      Praying for Ukraine.
      Greetings & blessings to you,
      Laurie

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  9. Wow -- God so rewarded your boldness. I think it's amazing that at a garage sale, there you were with other sisters and brothers in Christ, interceding for your pastor. What a powerful story! And I agree -- may I always remember to pray first no matter what. Thank you so much for being a part of SDG!

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    1. Thank you, Jen, for hosting and for your encouraging & uplifting words!
      It is always amazing to see what God can and will do if we allow Him to use us by yielding to the Spirit!
      May you have a blessed week in Him,
      Laurie

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  10. These is a powerful lesson, Laurie. About a month ago, I started opening up my day with prayer, and pray throughout the day. I thank Him for the good and pray for blessings in the bad. Thank you for sharing your story with Countdown in Style.

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    1. Praise God, April, for your faithfulness in prayer! Thanks for hosting & God bless!

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  11. Congratulations on being featured!
    http://redoityourselfinspirations.blogspot.com/2014/03/feature-friday-with-countdown-in-style.html
    Thank you so much for sharing with us at Countdown with Style~
    Robin

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    1. Thanks so much, Robin, for the feature & for hosting! I'm honored & blessed!
      Love in Christ,
      Laurie

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  12. Hi Laurie!

    I agree... Pray first before it fails, it is an answer that has so many options. I enjoyed the riddle. :)

    Blessings!
    Dawn

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    1. Amen, Dawn! Only in prayer can we seek and find His perfect wisdom and solution to our trials.
      Blessings to you too!
      Laurie

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  13. Wow, Laurie, I can tell you really researched this, and didn't just whip this post out! Lots of good info to put into practice!

    (visiting from Faith Filled Friday)

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    1. Thanks, Esther Joy, I'm glad you found it helpful!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  14. What a well written and thought provoking post! I love all of the scripture you've added.

    Thank you for linking-up last week at Beauty Observed. I hope you'll be back today!

    Elizabeth

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    1. Thanks so much, Elizabeth, for your lovely comment and for hosting! Planning to link up again today!
      Blessings to you,
      Laurie

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