“I Will Rise”

(Job 23: 13-14, The Message) “But he is singular and sovereign. Who can argue with him?  He does what he wants, when he wants to.  He’ll complete in detail what he’s decided about me, and whatever else he determines to do.”


I hear ya, Job. 

A few years back, this was where I seemed to be lingering.  I was going through a very tough period in my life.  I had lost one of my grandfathers to Alzheimer’s Disease, one of my grandmothers was placed in a nursing home due to the same condition, my other grandmother passed away after 3 years of suffering the aftereffects of a severe stroke, and my dad was also diagnosed with early onset, rapidly progressing Alzheimer’s…as well as another type of dementia.  This all took place in a matter of months.  My inner strength was already faltering due to miscarriages and negative reports from my doctor about the condition of my reproductive system, so when the bad news just continued to pour in, I pumped the brakes and literally said to God, “What in the world??”  I was in every kind of pain…physical, emotional, spiritual and mental.  I spent a lot of time crying…just spells of hard sobs that came from a deep place of anguish…and when the crying finally ceased, I fell numb.  One day I looked at my husband and I said, “I have stopped asking God for anything.  He just does what He wants, so why even ask anymore?”  I meant it too.  I hadn’t stopped believing, or praying even…I still spoke to God regularly.  In my hurt and sorrow I would sing, “Peace, peace, wonderful peace.  Coming down from the Father above.  Sweep over my spirit, forever I pray, in fathomless billows of love.”  I would tell God how much I hurt, and I wasn’t mad…just broken and defeated.  I was absolutely in a Job-like place. 

We are human, so we get into funks like that.  We want answers and resolutions.  We get very involved in the flesh and as a result our requests become centered around our own desires and ideas of what we think is best.  Our understanding is very limited and small in comparison to God’s omniscience, so it’s extremely difficult for us to see the master plan beyond what we are experiencing.  We are blind in many ways, and instead of trusting our guide, we instead try to feel our way around.  Then we get angry or upset when we bump into things and get hurt!  So what do we do then?  We just stand there in the safest spot we can find, still and useless…and pouty. 

Well I got tired of being the useless and pouty believer, just taking up space and fulfilling obligations.  I had to trust my guide, because standing still was making me crazy!  I thought I knew what was best and I was wrong…it was time to accept that.  In my human brain I thought things like, “How can Alzheimer’s be in God’s plan for someone’s life?”  Yet in my spirit, the Lord began to whisper His truths, the truths of His word, and it was brining me back to life.

8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.

    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so my ways are higher than your ways

    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. 

(Isaiah 55: 8-9, The Message)

The truth is, we do not always know what He is doing through these things that happen…you know, the things we just don’t understand.  However, as hard as it is at times to walk in faith, there is peace when we trust Him.  Romans 15: 13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  We are not promised understanding; we are entitled to nothing.  Our faith is a work in progress, but it begins with trust.  Without that, our faith is dead.  In these days, which are likely the last, we are being watched by the world.  Our actions, reactions, and all of the words we speak in faith are being observed.  Let us be ever mindful that what we say we believe is what we must live

(Hebrews 12: 1-4) 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when I hurt, help me to remember that You have suffered the greatest anguish.  Help me to trust You, always, so that I live a life of joy and peace…reflecting Your strength and love to the world.  Amen.

Sometimes We’re All Just Teenagers

(James 5: 16, NLT)

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Righteousness and prayer go hand in hand.  It just makes the most sense, doesn’t it?  If you are a parent (especially parent to a teenager) then you probably already have a sense of this concept.  I have a teenager, and I have to tell you, when he is pleasant, when he is following our rules, when he is being respectful and loving toward us, it makes us much more likely to listen to what he has to say when he is ready to ask for something or express his feelings to us.  I’m just sayin’!

It works pretty much the same way with us and God.  John 9:31 tells us, “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will.”   I am telling you now, when we come to God as petulant, disobedient children – when we should (and often DO) know better – He isn’t going to hear it!  I’ve been there with my own child.  When he is out of sorts, raising his voice and completely in the wrong, I shut him down immediately.  I tell him to come back when he is ready to apologize and do the right thing.  I love him so, my son, and because of that love, I know it is not in his best interest to allow that sort of exchange to take place between us.  He must learn respect and humility, and when he is able to come back to me from a loving place, I am waiting with open arms and ears, ready to work with him and be a blessing to him in any way that I can – if that is what is best for him.  There has to be a certain level of love, respect, and trust there.

Likewise, we must love God first – coming to Him with respect and honor, and humbling ourselves at His feet.  We have to be willing, before anything else, to ask God for His grace – getting our failures and sins out of the way so that there is room for God to work within and bless our lives.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.

(Psalm 37: 3-5)

 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, there is nothing that I want and need more than to be heard by You.  Help me to keep myself humble and righteous so that You are able to listen to me.  Amen. 

“Let faith rise up. Oh heart, believe.”

(James 4: 2-3, NLT) …Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. 

Recently, some dear friends of mine received some amazing news — a blessing that is a direct answer to prayers, and an open door that only God could make happen.  I am so overjoyed for my friends, and I can’t help but reflect on who they are in Christ — faithful, humble, kind, generous, selfless, and supportive.  I can’t think of a couple that bears more evidence of spiritual growth and maturity, so it makes total sense to see them reaping the harvest of the seeds that they have sown. 

We all have desires and goals.  We all have those things that we pray over, and I think many of us are looking around for open doors — for answers.  I know that in my own life, I have asked God “why” and “when” a million times when it comes to the desires of my heart.  His response:  Why?  When?  He turns it right back around to me, because it truly is about motives. 

For the longest time, I thought what I needed was another child.  This was a time in my life where I walked through real darkness — truly the valley of the shadow of death.  I felt utterly helpless and very, very alone.  People around me — my peers, unmarried people much younger than myself, and even my fellow “infertile Myrtles” — were all getting pregnant like it was an epidemic to which I was somehow, heartbreakingly, immune.  Talk about disheartening.  So I, of course, began to question God.  I put Him on trial and I badgered Him like an angry lawyer!  God, WHY can’t I have another baby?  WHEN are You going to answer MY prayers?  I’m faithful!  I demand answers! Only to be met with total silence…

So I quit asking God for anything.  Oh, I prayed, but I left my requests in the recesses of my heart.  I had resolved that God was arbitrary and supplications just don’t matter.  He’s gonna do what He’s gonna do anyway, right?  That was the way I felt!  I thought God was being silent because I was somehow undeserving of an answered prayer, but it was during this time that I came across the above verse in James 4, “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”  Well, there was my answer folks.  I was humbled in that moment.  I realized that God’s plan for me is not always what I think I want.  It’s not about me!  I had been selfish.  I asked myself, “Why do I want another baby?  When have I truly set myself aside and given my all — my focus, my heart, my ability — over to the will of God?” 

Maybe you have been asking God for something, to no avail.  Maybe you’re like I was and feeling defeated and alone.  Please know this — YOU ARE NOT AT WAR WITH GOD!  If you feel defeated, it isn’t because God is keeping you under His thumb.  Don’t you for one moment believe that lie.  He loves you, and He has something beautiful and perfect planned out for your life.  It may not match what you have dreamed up in your human and imperfect heart, but when you let go of that stuff, when you relinquish the control to God, when you set your heart on being faithful to His commandments and precepts, He will begin to open those doors so wide that there will be no mistaking that it is Him and only Him! 

It’s funny how, in retrospect, things almost always make sense.  This past summer, it became evident to me that a former student of mine (a 9 year old little boy) needed a stable home and a family to raise him and provide for him.  Now, I work in public education in an inner-city elementary school, so I do see this a lot, but this time I felt that unmistakable pull that only comes from God.  This child would not get out of my thoughts and God would not leave me alone.  The door had opened, folks.  It all made sense.  We brought this child into our home, and we haven’t looked back, not even once.  All of my questions have been answered.  I asked God why — because…if I had another child of my own I would never have been receptive to opening our home to this little boy.  I asked God when — when everyone was ready. 

Like my friends, who stayed the course, whose focus was always on serving God and growing in Him — and like my own situation — when we are able to shift the focus from self to serving, when our motives are pure and selfless, that’s when things start to happen.  The doors begin to open, and we have but to walk on through them.  Sometimes we have to endure blind faith, but God is never going to leave us behind.  He’s carrying you.  I promise.  Keep your heart steady and pure.  He’ll do the rest.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I thank you that even in my doubt and hurt, when I could not see past my tears and frustration, You were there waiting and ready to meet me with every answer.  Help me to never forget what I have learned through the darkest times of my life, and help me to continue to walk in that wisdom.  Amen.

I Am Praying for Them

John 17:6-9 – “I (Jesus) have manifested in Your name to the people whom You gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and You gave them to me, and they have kept Your word. Now they know that everything that You have given Me is from You. For I have given them the words that You gave Me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. I am praying for them. … … …

How often do you feel alone? Unseen? Misunderstood? Do you ever feel like you’re potentially on the edge of defeat? Has there ever been a time you’ve falsely convinced yourself that you didn’t have what it takes to win a battle you had to fight?

I am praying for them.

I’m sure each and every one of us have dealt with each of the above scenarios more than once in our lives. But, do you think those moments would end much more quickly if we could get ourselves to remember that Jesus Christ is praying for us?

I am praying for them.

He prays for all believers to be unified, in one accord, etc. as He and the Father are. John 17:11- … “I am no longer in the world, but they are… Holy Father, keep them in Your name… that they may be one, even as We are one.”    

I am praying for them.

Too often we Christians allow sorrow and depression to linger too long in our lives. Several scriptures make it clear that Christ longs for us to have joy and peace overshadow us along our journey. But, He prays that for us, too! John 17:13- “… now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” The Creator and Savior of this world prays for us to have His joy satisfied and achieved in our lives! So, when sorrow tries to unpack its bags and depression attempts to pick out its new room, just remind them Who is praying for you to have joy and send them on their way!

I am praying for them.

Maybe you’re feeling weak and unequipped to face temptation everyday. You’re discouraged and maybe even angry at yourself for “failing” at the same things on multiple occasions. You can overcome that! You are more than a conqueror through Him. (Romans 8:37) Why? Because of these words spoken to the Father by the Son, “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.” John 17:15  Remind yourself every morning when you wake up that your Redeemer is calling out for you to be protected from the enemy’s tactics… to be kept from his lies… to avoid each thing he attempts to throw at you! With your determination, His strength, your faith, and His prayers… You can and will be victorious in all that you are faced with!

I am praying for them.

Are you struggling with direction? Unanswered questions? Unfamiliar territories? Determining God’s plan for your life? He also prays that you will find yourself consecrated, approved, supported, authorized, and endorsed through the Word of God. John 17:17- Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. When you dedicate yourself to the Word of God; when you read your bible to glean knowledge and instruction; and when you pray that God opens your eyes to an even deeper wisdom so that you can live life to its fullest potential, you will see all those things take place. You will find your way. The majority of your questions will be given answers. Confidence, courage, and contentment will be yours to wear. You just have to commit yourself to the faithful reading of His Word. You can do that…

I am praying for them.

He wants you to dwell in His presence and be filled with a deep, unconditional, gracious, and Godly love, too! John 17:24, 26- “Father, I desire that they also… may be with Me where I am, to see My glory that You have given Me… I made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them…”

What a beautiful and blessed life you’ve been given to live! All these prayers… they’re powerful and they will come to pass! James 5:16- … “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much!” He IS righteousness, so His prayers will not go unheard or unanswered… and He prays for you!! Remind yourself of His words today and everyday…

I am praying for them.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for praying for me. Thank You for wanting such great and mighty things for my life. May I never forget Your words nor cease to praise You for Your excellent kindness to me. Thank You for the promise of victory. I love You. In Your name I boldly declare this, amen.

I Will…

(Psalm 145: 1-7, NLT)

I will exalt you, my God and King,
    and praise your name forever and ever.
I will praise you every day;
    yes, I will praise you forever.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
    No one can measure his greatness.

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts;
    let them proclaim your power.
I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor
    and your wonderful miracles.
Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue;
    I will proclaim your greatness.
Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness;
    they will sing with joy about your righteousness.

There is great power in the words that we speak to ourselves.  As silly as it can seem, there is a lot of effectiveness in taking time to speak affirmations to yourself and being intentional in your thoughts.  How you talk to yourself can affect your entire day, and furthermore…your entire life.  This is why we have to be purposeful with our thoughts.

As many of you know, I am an educator, and a big part of our lesson framework is using what we call “I will” statements to preface each lesson.  We used to use “I can” statements, but this year we modified it to “I will.”  It doesn’t seem like a very significant change really, but even just that one word changes the entire feel of the lesson.  The children used to end each lesson with an “I can” and that wasn’t always the case with each child.  Some of them couldn’t.  So now, they begin with a mindful, intentional statement that begins with “I will.”  It’s almost like a promise to oneself.

You may be wondering where I’m going here.  How does this pertain to our spiritual lives at all?

Most of the time, we know our own capabilities…or at least we think we do.  We know what we can do, and that’s how we operate in our daily lives…pushing all of the things that we know we can do until later.  Essentially, we are spiritual procrastinators!  We are busy, we are distracted, and though we may be taking time out each day to love on God a little, are we being intentional in how we approach our relationships with Him?

We need to change the way that we think and talk to ourselves.  Instead of “I can” exalt the Lord, “I can” praise Him every day, “I can” meditate on His splendor, or “I can” proclaim His greatness – we should be following David’s example of a purpose-driven life of prayer and thanksgiving by saying I will, I will, I will, I will…and then doing it…right now…because we really aren’t promised a later!

Such a seemingly simple change to make, but it can alter your prayer life and your relationship with God in a mighty way.  We should be ever growing and always changing for the better as we walk with the Lord, becoming more passionate and driven as the years go by.  However, sometimes we get bogged down, that inner fire diminishes to nothing more than a tiny glowing ember, and we are simply moving from moment to moment – grace to grace.  It happens.  That’s just what life does to us sometimes, because of sin and imperfection, but this is the exact point in our lives when we have to decide to make a change and rekindle the flame.

So say to yourself today, and every day:

 I will exalt you, my God and King,
    and praise your name forever and ever.
I will praise you every day;
    yes, I will praise you forever.

 I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor
    and your wonderful miracles.

 I will proclaim your greatness.

Make these promises, and keep them.  Be forward thinking and intentional.  When you say to God, I will, I think you’ll find that a great sense of commitment will set in, and you will become more engaged with our Heavenly Father than ever before.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I love You so much, but sometimes my actions do not always show that to You.  I pray that You will help me to be more committed and mindful in my prayer life, so that I am always maturing and growing closer to You.  Instead of thinking about what I can do, help me to proclaim what I will do.  Amen.

Find Your Wall

2 Kings 20:1-9-  “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet… came to him and said… “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him. “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David… I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold I will heal you… and I will defend this city for my own sake, and for my servant David’s sake…’” And Isaiah said, “… the Lord will do the thing that he has promised.”

 

I find much peace in security; and change tends to stress me out. I like to know how a situation is going to end before it even starts. I want to know that everything I care about is safe and stable and the people I love are happy and healthy. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

No doubt we’d all sleep a little better at night knowing all things we hold dear were in the best of conditions without any fear of contamination. But, we’re not in Heaven yet, so we understand that’s not going to be the case. A lot of us have learned how to walk in grace and survive in the midst of heart-wrenching and mind-boggling situations, but what about those who haven’t? Or what about those moments that just knock the breath right out of you?

Hezekiah was a faithful, godly man. He ruled Judah under God’s direction and obeyed His commands. The Lord was always on his side and he walked in prosperity and victory throughout the majority of his reign. But there came a day when the king of Assyria attacked Judah and took it captive. He began to scorn Hezekiah and his faith, taunt the country, and mock God. As soon as King Hezekiah heard this, he immediately found a place of prayer. He was fearful, but his trust in the Lord was not shaken. And, faithful to His people, God moved on their behalf and delivered them from Assyria’s hand.

Not too long after, Hezekiah became very ill. When the prophet Isaiah informed him that God had spoken and said his life was near its end, Hezekiah reached a breaking point. And again, he turned his face to the wall and prayed… He cried out for mercy, wept bitterly, and poured out every ounce of himself at the feet of his God. Within just moments, God spoke back. “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you… and I will defend this city…”

The Lord doesn’t always answer us according to exactly how we pray. If it’s not what’s best, He will change our hearts and give us peace when we ask for answers. Still, we must understand, that in order for change to take place, for miracles to happen, and for the “impossible” to be accomplished, we have to follow Hezekiah’s example. We have to find our wall… and do so prior to any other action we may make.

We’re impatient creatures. We don’t like to wait, we want our emotions justified immediately, and we want to have a part in achieving the results we desire. I’m convinced the majority of us naturally pick up a phone the moment uncertainty grips our hearts. When financial crises sneak up on us, I’m sure we instantly sit down and look at what costs we can cut or brainstorm how to bring in more income. During times of unwelcome health issues, we are on the edge of our seats waiting for a good report from the doctor to ease our nerves. In the midst of family drama, we lean too much on our own words and/or efforts to mend broken relationships.

None of these things are wrong… but they’re only minimally effective. We only have limited ability to solve problems. True power lies within the hands of God Almighty. (Matthew 19:26- With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.) We have to isolate ourselves at times; get some uninterrupted alone time with our Lord. Turn our face to the wall, drown out all other voices, ignore every doubt and lie the devil throws at us, and erase every scenario we’ve fixed inside our mind and let Him speak; let Him work; let Him move in a way that only He can. (James 4:2b- … you have not, because you ask not.)  

Life can get tough! Situations become uncomfortable. But, when you’re back is to the wall, just turn around for a second. Cry out to the Lord and watch things start to happen.

 

Prayer: Lord, thank You for hearing me when I pray. How blessed I am to have You on my side. Help me come to You first, as I know You are the difference maker in every situation. I love You, Lord. Amen.

Repair the Altar and Look for Fire

1 Kings 18:20-39- Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves… and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God. And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” … … … And they (the prophets of Baal)… called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us! But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made… … … And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me…” And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down… And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did… And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did… And the water ran around the altar… And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O, Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel… Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God…” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water… And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”

 

It’s hard to turn on the news channels today, isn’t it? There’s so much violence, betrayal, deception, and hatred… It makes a heart break. And nearly every mainstream circuit reports negatively anything relating to Jesus Christ. They rally and march for anything that opposes Him, and petition and mock things He commands. As a Christian, we can sometimes feel lost in a sea of angry, vengeful faces, can’t we?

We’re like a lone Elijah surrounded by 450 prophets of Baal.

Are we responding the way he did, though?

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” – Leo Tolstoy

I’ve noticed so many who claim wholeheartedly to follow Christ become easily swayed by the view of the majority. I’ve watched as their beliefs drowned from the wave of opinions constantly crashing over them. Truths were all of a sudden viewed as preference and faith in Jesus Christ was deemed equal to any other.

It’s so easy to blend into the crowd. Instead of discerning when it’s time to speak up and disciplining ourselves to radiate the spirit of Christ, we just sit back and say short, silent prayers. I’m guilty of taking on this pattern myself. But, I hunger for something more. I yearn to be used in a mighty and purposeful way. We were called to lift Him up and offer hope to this world.

Can we do that if we just hide among the crowd?

Elijah knew his God. He knew His attributes, His abilities, and His Sovereign power. And when a time came for Elijah to proclaim what he knew, he didn’t let it slip by. The strength of his faith was so intense, he was ready to put the glory of his God on display.

As we mentioned before, there were 450 people who claimed to be prophets of Baal… and there were, mingled in the throng, people who simply followed after them. They shouted out for answers all day long… They asked for proof, an act of power, any kind of sign of Baal’s existence… and they received nothing. “…there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.”

Can’t this be said of the world today? People have all these “amazing” ideas that are sure to bring about equality and peace… but are we seeing that? No! There’s more division and violence than ever before. There’s a push to “be true to  yourself,” yet people are changing their affections, their genders, and their appearances on the regular! What’s wrong with this picture?

They’re following after the wrong gods… They’re going about all of this the wrong way.

When it was Elijah’s turn to call on his God, the first thing he did was “repair the altar that had been thrown down.”

Altars are known as a place of prayer, right? Prayer is something that this world has thrown aside, for sure. Yet, even honest Christians admit that it’s lacking in their lives, as well. And it’s the very core of the Christian faith! I firmly believe, (because it’s scriptural), that when we fall back on our faces before the Lord and pray consistently for this world in which we live, we will see wonders. We will see “fire fall from heaven.”

If we want to see miracles- if we want to see change- we have to do things differently than the majority. We can’t hang everything on walks and rallies. Life changing moments can’t be achieved simply by meetings and gatherings. While it’s definitely necessary to put our faith into action, we have to lead our hearts back to prayer.

Elijah didn’t have to do anything elaborate. He didn’t need excessive resources or a support system. He had faith in the One True God, and that was enough! He prayed a short prayer and God moved on his behalf and a whole nation was turned back to Him.

There is so much power in prayer! “Satan tries to limit your prayer, because he knows your prayer will limit him!” It’s so simple, right? So why does it seem nearly impossible to find time to fit it in? Going forward, let’s make time! Let’s repair the altar of the Lord! He is sure to intervene!

 

Prayer: God, thank You for always being readily waiting to hear me. Give me the determination to make time every day to be alone with You, for You are the only Thing that can make an effective difference in this world. I love You, Lord. Amen.

 

PRAY!

I have been thinking a lot lately about where we are as a nation. Things are not looking good for America. It seems that everyday now there is an assault on Christian values. Values, in general, have changed. “Tolerance” is one-sided. We are “commanded” by the world to tolerate the sinful lifestyles, but they don’t tolerate those who choose to accept Scripture. We should not be surprised by this…Jesus told us that we would be hated just as He was hated.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m all for advancing revelation. I’m thankful that the church has moved off of some of the legalistic jargon that was so prevalent just a few short years ago. With that said, I’m concerned that we have abandoned true scriptural admonitions for the sake of convenience and popularity. For instance…it may be more popular to live together without the benefit of marriage, but does that fit with Scripture? It may sound cooler to use language that is suggestive, or crude…but how does that fit with not allowing blessing and cursing to come out of the same mouth?

To turn the tide, holiness must be reintroduced to America. However, I’m not sure that can be done by a group of Christians talking about it. While I’m certainly not opposed to Christians speaking out about their beliefs, I’m just not sure that anyone is listening. And, simply showering unbelievers with love is not going to address the issue of turning away from sinful lifestyles. Nor, am I interested in reintroducing legalistic “lists” that are impossible to maintain. I’m not much of a finger-pointer either. So, what is the church to do? Where do we even start?

It dawns on me that the most effective thing we can do is PRAY. I don’t mean just little “Lay me down to sleep” prayers. I’m talking about intense, directed prayer that specifically targets the sin of our nation. I’m talking about prayer that urges God to change the hearts of our nation…whatever the cost. I’m talking about asking God to change the hearts and logic of our government officials. What would happen if God allowed difficulty to come to the lives of our leaders with the express purpose of changing their hearts? God certainly has used that approach before…just check Biblical history.

I’m reminded of an old song that we used to sing…

It is no secret what God can do.
What He’s done for others,
He’ll do for you.
With arms wide open,
He’ll pardon you.
It is no secret what God can do!

When I was a teenager, I remember my mother praying that God would put me under such conviction for my sinful actions that I would not be able to sleep at night. She prayed that I would become physically ill if I was drinking for the purpose of getting drunk. She didn’t play games with my sin. She understood that hardship would cause me to turn to God. She knew that my soul was hanging in the balance. I know that many would not agree with that particular approach to prayer. But, what other options do we have? The world will not listen to “Christian” reasoning, and even if they listened they could not understand because they are not in covenant with God and His Word.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

As I think about all that prayer has accomplished throughout history, I am convinced that it is capable of turning the tide. There is no shortage of power. Let there be no shortage of PRAYER!

Effective Leadership

(1 Samuel 23:1-5 ESV) 1 Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” 2 Therefore David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the LORD said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” 3 But David’s men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” 4 Then David inquired of the LORD again. And the LORD answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” 5 And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.

When we think of leaders, we usually think of someone who is “high up” in an organization. The President of the United States is often referred to as the “leader of the free world!” Steve Jobs led Apple to become one of the most prosperous companies in the world today.

But, what about leadership closer to home. Who steps up to the plate when a crisis needs to be averted? While it is true that David was a well known and highly respected king, this passage of scripture provides insight as to how anyone can provide leadership in difficult situations. Notice…

  • David listened. “Now THEY told David…” Usually, problems come to leadership through the voices closest to the chaos. As a pastor, I often discover problems that need my attention when a member provides information I’m unaware of. For you, it may be your spouse, or a child; maybe a co-worker who takes the time to share vital information that needs to be addressed.
  • David prayed. “Therefore David inquired of the Lord…” This was a BIG problem with national consequences. David knew he needed wisdom from God to effectively  defeat the enemy. But, what about your challenges? As bad as it seems, your problems usually don’t carry national consequences. Even still, prayer should always be the starting point.
  • David listened some more. “But, David’s men said…” It would be easy to criticize these men. But, before we do that let’s consider the fact that their lives were on the line. Their families could be negatively impacted if David was wrong. They wanted to be sure that David was actually hearing the Lord properly before agreeing to engage in warfare that could possibly end in death.
  • David prayed some more. “David inquired of the Lord AGAIN…” David was wise to pray again. When a personal decision determines the welfare of a corporate body, the leader must be certain about the will of God. The New Testament confirms the need to ask, seek, and knock when it comes to prayer. Leaders unwilling to pray are unworthy to be followed!
  • David led. “So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah…” David received the credit for leading a team that was ill-prepared to face the giants in their lives. He led them on two battlefields… their personal fears… and their powerful enemies.

John Michael Montgomery made famous as song that says,

Life’s a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don’t worry about what you don’t know
Life’s a dance you learn as you go

PRAYER: Father, thank you for giving us the ability to lead with divine wisdom. May we overcome the giants of fear that would try to hold us back from victory. Give us the courage to face our challenges with faith and courage. Amen.

It’s a Beautiful Thing

Matthew 26:6-11- “Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at the table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble this woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you…”

 

If your life is anything like mine, you are loaded down every single day with responsibilities. Spouses, children, dinner, laundry, friends, family, church activities, school meets, and the list could very easily go on and on. From the moment our feet hit the floor, we rush through the day just hoping and praying we get everything done.

But, how often do we stop just to talk to Jesus? How many times a day do we give Him our undivided attention?

I’ve been so convicted about this as of late. I find myself buying planners to assist myself with accomplishing all of my goals; Scheduling my days nearly down to the half hour to meet all of the upcoming deadlines. This is when I’ll start the laundry. That is when I’ll empty the dishwasher. On lunch I’ll run by the bank. At 3:00, I’ll check on so and so. At 7:30 I’ll start writing that blog… … … But, when I go back and look over it all, I’m broken and ashamed at how little time I spent giving Christ my FULL attention. There is nothing wrong at all with praying in the car, worshiping while you sweep the kitchen, or listening to a sermon while dinner is on. But, don’t you feel so special and loved when someone stops everything they’re doing, pulls up a chair, and looks you right in the eye as you speak or listen? I know I do. And I know Jesus would sure love that, too.

Looking back at this portion of Scripture, I understand the disciples’ concern. Back in that day, alabaster boxes filled with ointment were said to cost approximately one year’s worth of wages. I’m sure in their frame of mind they were thinking of all the struggling people just on the other side of their walls. Aren’t followers of Christ supposed to help the poor? Most definitely. Shouldn’t we be wise stewards with our money? For sure. Isn’t it expected of us to check on the sick, keep our homes in order, visit the prisoners, and take care of the orphans? Don’t we need to reach out to the community and give it all our best effort? Absolutely. But, we’re also told to simply, “Be still.” (Psalm 46:10) We have to pause and remember Who He is. When we do that, our hearts will yearn for that one-on-one time with Him.

Our help comes from the Lord. (Psalm 121:2) He is the very Source of our strength. (Psalm 28:7) He is our Safety (Proverbs 18:10), our Shield (Psalm 18:2), and our Mediator. (Hebrews 7:25) We will wear ourselves out if we don’t take time to soak in peace of mind and rest that only He can give. (Isaiah 26:3)

We should keep our “hands to the plow.” We should do everything as to the Lord. We’re told to number our days and use our time wisely. (Psalm 90:12 & Ephesians 5:16) Still, we must be careful that we don’t focus so much on ministry that we lose sight of Who we’re ministering for. I probably talk about Christ more than I actually talk to Him, and that’s something I’ve got to change. He longs for our fellowship. He deserves it, and I need it. What you’re doing for others is great! But time with Him… Worshipping Him… Talking with Him… even greater. It’s a beautiful thing.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for loving me like You do… for wanting time with ME. Thank You for always being there with a listening ear, merciful heart, and outstretched arms. Help it sink down deep in my heart that I need uninterrupted time with You on a daily basis. Without that time to rest, glean strength, and hear Your direction, I’ll wear myself down and out. I love You, Jesus! Forgive me for not spending enough time with You, and help me as I try to do better. In Your name, Amen.