Welcome Little children rarely ask their parents or teachers for discipline because it’s what’s best for them. They want to get what they want and on their terms and on their timeline. It’s no wonder that we are often referred to as God’s children, because we fit this description to a T. It has only been recently that I have started asking God for what He thinks is best for me, instead of me telling God what I think is best for me. And let me tell you, it’s not getting any easier, which I thought it would! Thanks for joining me today for the second part of this week’s topic on GROWTH. I also have a Two-For-Tuesday recipe double feature of southern favorites. And don’t forget we have a Spring giveaway going on at our Facebook page.
Food For Thought A few months ago I was listening to Mercy Me’s Jesus Bring the Rain. I had heard the song a few times, but on this particular day, I really listened to the words, particularly the chorus, and thinking about what my prayer time looks like to God. I have no trouble with the first part of this chorus, “So I pray bring me joy, bring me peace, bring me the chance to be free.” It seems these days I ask God for joy and peace on an hourly basis. It’s the lyrics that follow I seem to struggle with more: Anything that brings you glory. Really? Anything? That sounds like a lot of hard work and sacrifice on my part! And, I’m supposed to pray for this. It’s not that I don’t want to bring God glory, I most certainly do! It’s just that I spend a lot of my prayer time trying to get out of hard times and difficulty. But then I think of how many people I know, or at least have heard or read their stories, that go through hardship and trial and use it to glorify God and His kingdom. This is the rain being sung about in the lyrics. The chorus goes on to say, “And I know there’ll be days when this life brings me pain, but if that’s what it takes to praise you, Jesus bring the rain.” It makes sense, even if a hard pill to swallow. If we did not witness first hand how God delivers us through these hard times and struggles, how could we proclaim our faith in His power, love, and mercy? It’s not easy to ask for hard things to come our way, but sometimes we have to pray the dangerous prayers.
I first read about “dangerous prayers” a few months ago while reading Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl (Zondervan; 2009) by Lysa TerKeurst. She has an entire chapter that addresses this idea and confesses that many of us spend our time praying for things we want God to bless us with, on our terms. Oh, yes, I’m very guilty of this. She then mentions how these types of prayers can stunt our growth and maturity as Christians. She explains that these prayers are dangerous not because they bring danger to our lives, but because they can bring change to our lives. And let’s face it, change can be just as scary as defined danger! Some of her examples of dangerous prayers include inconvenience, for the sake of doing the Lord’s work; interruption; and revealing what’s not from Him. I remember reading this chapter and being scared. This type of prayer makes sense if I truly want to do His Will and have Him use me for His work, but I don’t like the idea of inconvenience and I’m not necessarily looking to give up everything in my life that might not be part of God’s plan and purpose. But I do need growth!
At the time I read this, I knew I was struggling with an earthly desire to move, even though I know it’s not what’s best for my entire family right now. This desire was impeding my Christian walk, however, by leaving me anxious, envious, bitter, angry, negative, and argumentative. Some pretty ugly traits that I would never be proud of, so my first dangerous prayer was, “My Dear God, if this desire is not meant for me, if this wish is not from you, please remove it from my heart and mind so that it does not cause me to stumble in my faith or actions.” Well, three months later, I’m still praying this dangerous prayer. I believe there’s a reason God has not removed it from my desires. I believe I have some important lessons to learn about patience, faith, perseverance, trust, and contentment. But this is only one type of dangerous prayer I’ve spoken recently. I have began to pray, “Lead me where you need me.” In this prayer, I need God to show me where I can be of most service and do the most good for His plan. This is an extremely dangerous prayer, as I realize I could find myself being put in a place of inconvenience and change. God may very well see a different plan for me and the work I feel called to do at this point in my life. I am familiar with how some of God’s answers to prayers put us in uncomfortable situations, such as my prayer for a change in my job circumstances last year.
So here’s where I need to bring myself in these dangerous prayers: total and complete surrender! Yikes! I have been somewhat of a control-freak my whole life, so this is probably the scariest part for me. I have to pray and then completely surrender it to God. I have to let go of any manipulation on my part. I have to quit trying to force the answers to fit my comfort zone. I also can not ignore directions I know God is giving me. If I have the strong, spirit-filled instinct that God is telling me what I need to do, then I must take action. It’s dangerous because it involves change and sacrifice, and those things can be scary. Can I be willing to put myself in these uncomfortable positions for the sake of growth? Well, I’m certainly willing to try. How about you?
Today’s Scripture Everyone loves the verse, Jeremiah 29:11! We get really pumped up about God’s plans to prosper us and give us hope and a future. I certainly call on those words often, and I believe them to be true for each of us. God has a plan for me, bringing me nothing but what He sees best for my life. But when you read this profoundly popular verse, you really need to read it in its entire context. These words are part of a letter written by Jeremiah and delivered to the exiles in Babylon. Basically, the Israelites are in captivity because of their disobedience, and they will be for many years. That doesn’t sound like very comfortable or pleasant circumstances to me! But God has a purpose, as stated in our favorite verse here:
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
And this promise is conditional, as stated in verse 12 and 13, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
The Israelites are going to have to offer some dangerous prayers. If they wish to be found and brought back, and spared the harm mentioned in verses 17 through 22, they must seek the Lord with all their heart. This looks a lot like praying through struggle and difficulty in order for God’s greater good to be accomplished. Easy? No, especially when you don’t know what’s waiting on the other side of the difficulty, the way the exiles did through Jeremiah’s prophecy. To allow God’s prosperous and hopeful plans to come to be, we must pray the dangerous prayers and surrender ourselves to His will.
Today’s Recipes No, I still don’t have an answer from God yet regarding my move to Tennessee or North Carolina, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have some of my favorite southern comfort foods just about anytime I want! Over the weekend I made some Pork Steaks and Beans, greens with onions, and cornbread in the cast iron skillet. I was excited to find this new store-brand product, too. Cajun-seasoned Navy Beans, they’re like baked beans, but tomato-free, perfect for those of us with a tomato allergy!
Pork Steaks with Beans and Bacon (6-8 servings)
- 5 strips bacon
- 1 small onion
- 3 large pork steaks
- 3 cans seasoned Navy beans, or your favorite pork and beans
- 2 tsp grill seasoning
- salt and pepper
Turn oven to 425 degrees. In large cast-iron skillet fry bacon until cooked crisp. Remove bacon to paper towel-lined plate to drain. Slice onion and cook in bacon drippings until just golden. Spray 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Stir beans, grill seasoning, and cooked onions together and pour into prepared 9×13 pan. Season both sides of pork steaks with salt and pepper; brown in iron skillet using the bacon drippings. When browned, place steaks on beans, top with crumbled bacon, and place in oven, baking for 30-35 minutes. Save cast-iron skillet and any remaining drippings for the cornbread
Basic Cornbread for Cast-Iron Skillet (8-10 servings)
- 3 TBS butter (if you don’t have many bacon drippings left)
- 2 cups corn meal MIX (this will already have flour and baking powder in the mix; I used Martha White)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- butter, for serving
If you don’t have many bacon drippings left, add the butter to your hot iron skillet to melt. In mixing bowl, whisk together the corn meal mix and sugar. Add egg and milk and stir until well combined. Pour batter into hot buttered skillet. Place in 425 degree oven and bake for 18-22 minutes. Serve with butter.
This meal goes well with your favorite sautéed greens, with bacon and onions, of course!