Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Partnering in Prayer - A Lenten Devotion - Day 21 - Thirsty for God

Day 21 – Tuesday
Thirsty for God

This is the message I preached tonight at the Scottsville Community Lenten Service, at Scottsville United Methodist Church.
Lent is a time of introspection and prayer, a time of seeking God and asking Him to deal with our issues. It’s a time of turning inward, letting God deal with our sin and heal us. I pray that you are using this time of Lent for just that purpose, and that you’re being healed every day.

I know a man who is in jail. But while he serves time for the crime he committed, he’s learning to be free on the inside. He has received Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and isn't waiting to get out of jail before serving God. He's serving God on the inside. Some people who have never been inside a jail might have a hard time imagining what it’s like. My friend has shared stories of the inside with me, and while he’s not in maximum-security prison with a bunch of murderers, he still isn’t in any place you’d like to be. Every moment of the day, he does what he’s told to do. He sleeps where he’s told to sleep. He eats what he’s told to eat. He has no freedom on the outside--but he's learning to be free on the inside. He told me to use his example to help other people who are crushed and beaten down. He'll be reading this message along with you--I hope he approves.

Yesterday, I was visiting him in jail, and I shared this scripture with him:

Psalm 146: 3 The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead.
4 So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.
5 I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.
6 I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

My friend immediately identified with the psalmist. As David was pursued by a physical enemy, my friend who is now set free on the inside remembered how the devil pursued him. He told me how his spiritual enemy crushed his life to the ground, and made him sit in darkness like those long dead. He related how his inner turmoil caused his spirit to faint within him, and his heart to be appalled.

I shared with him how the psalmist gives the solution to that problem:

Remember the days of old. Honestly reflect on how you got yourself into the situation. Hold no truth back from yourself as you recall your sin, your guilt, and your shame.

Think about all of God’s deeds. Contemplate how God has shown you grace throughout your life, even when you least expected it.

Meditate on the work of God’s hands. What have God’s hands done? How has Jesus touched you, healed you, and guided you? Thank Jesus that He was willing to spread those hands and suffer crucifixion on your behalf.

Stretch out your hands to God. Offer to Him what He offered to you. Stretch out your hands and embrace Him. Give Him the work of your hands. Raise them to Him in worship.

Thirst for God like a parched land. No other drink will do.

I’ve heard a lot of men say that there’s nothing like a cold beer when you’re thirst, on a hot summer day. I wondered if this was true, so I looked it up. Dr. Robert Shmerling, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center says that when you sweat, you lose more water than salt. The blood vessels construct in order to maintain blood pressure, resulting in muscle cramps. A chemical message is sent to the kidneys, causing to conserve water. Anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) helps prevent water loss, and your brain’s thirst instinct kicks in.

When you drink alcohol to quench thirst, of course your fluid is replaced. But alcohol inhibits the brain’s release of ADH. Kidneys no loner hold onto the water, putting more water in the bladder rather than keeping it in circulation, as they should when you’re exerting yourself. Inebriation dulls both the thirst instinct and the senses, causing you to be less likely to actually quench your thirst with something that will actually help—water!

I ask you—what are you thirsty for? The psalmist says we should be thirsty for God, as a dry land is thirsty for water. What have you been thirsting for, instead of God? Like a man who drinks a cold one when he’s thirsty, we can often fill our lives with all kinds of things that seem satisfying, but leave us worse off than we were before. As your enemy pursues you, he wants you to thirst for these other things. These false thirst-quenchers actually weaken you, and leave you wanting more. When the enemy pursues you, crushes you, and makes you sit in darkness, remember God. Thirst for God. Stretch out your hands to him, and live!

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