Tempted Not To Pray

Tempted Not To Pray

Matthew 26:41 (NLT) Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!

“Keep watch and pray…” Simple instructions. Did you pray today? How about last night? At church? During a rough patch in your day? When was the last time you sincerely dedicated time in your busy day to pray? Prayer is important. It is vital in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our Spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. Our intent is to continue to pray but the responsibilities and pressures of life steal those precious moments once put to good use on our knees in prayer. Why is important to pray?

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16) Do you believe it? I truly think if we believed this truth from God’s Word wholeheartedly our prayer life would be designated and intentional. The enemy will tempt you each day not to pray. He will entice you to worry, stress and be anxious rather than pray, trust and have confidence. He tempts us to come to the Lord demanding, arguing and begging for things that are already clearly defined and settled in the Kingdom of God. Earnest prayer is essential to see Heaven come to the earth. To carve out segments of time each day to come to the Lord, keep watch and continue to pray even in the biggest battles, facing giants, and in the midst of many distraction.

I Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT) If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

We do not pray to establish our faithfulness but to acknowledge God’s Faithfulness. Confidence in His Ability to keep us, grow us, develop us, change us, mold us and shape us into His Image. When we decide that prayer is not a necessity, it is at that moment that temptation lays a dangerous snare. Temptation is not about overt sins easily overcome by self-control and religious living. There is the temptation called pride. The one that makes us think that it is in our spiritual strength we stand, but when we are dangerously close to the edge of falling. Temptation is the manifestation of our desire over God’s Will.

Mathew 6:9-13 (NLT) Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

Prayer is not about me. It is all about eliciting the help of God to overcome daily temptations including, but not limited to, doubt, fear, anxiety, depression, hopelessness and every other lie that the enemy tries to ensnare the heart and mind of God’s People. Prayer exalts God above every other drive and impulse in our life and puts Him on the throne for today. It is an invitation for His Kingdom to manifest in our ordinary life. It is the acceptance of His Will and His Way. It is acknowledgement of His Provision naturally and supernaturally. It is confession of our sin that exposes each one to His Grace. It is to enact a force field inviting God to shield us from temptation and lead us in the way of escape from the traps set by the evil one.

Luke 8:13 (NLT) The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation.

By praying God’s Word, seeds of faith are shoved deep in the folds of a fertile heart and open mind to grow, develop and mature into confident hope. Confident hope is not easily distracted or detoured by the enemy’s tactics. Why? Because Jesus is the Word of God, when the Word becomes an intricate and intimate part of our life, it changes the way we think and act. It is not about what He does for us but Who He is that motivates our faithfulness and opens the doors and windows of Heaven over our once barren life. We endure temptation long enough to see the Fruit of our labor rise up as prospering harvest in our life. God’s Word exposes the lie of the enemy and the truth sets us free. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. It is with His Word and by faith every thought is evaluated for relevancy and rebellion is recognized and resolved before inner conflict begins. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Psalm 84:11 (NLT) For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.

Are you tempted not to pray today? Maybe you are running late, don’t see the point, or just don’t believe that God is listening. Nothing could be further from the truth, my friend. He loves you and longs to communicate with you. The Lord is our sun – the Light that leads us to better things that He has in store for us. He is our shield – guarding and protecting us so that we can endure to the end. He gives us grace in copious quantities and His Glory is ours. The Lord withholds no good thing from those who do right and He is our righteousness today. Do not be dissuaded or disillusioned – God is for you. He is with you! He is crazy about you! He will stop at nothing for you to have His Absolute Best even when you would settle for far less. He is that good and that good to us! He is calling today – will you respond? My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” (Psalm 27:8)

Psalm 119:145-149 (NLT) I pray with all my heart; answer me, Lord! I will obey your decrees. I cry out to you; rescue me, that I may obey your laws. I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words. I stay awake through the night, thinking about your promise. In your faithful love, O Lord, hear my cry; let me be revived by following your regulations.

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Humble Prayers

Humble Prayers

2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (NLT) At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16) It is not the earnestness of our prayers that move the heart of God. There I said it. I believe in the power of prayer. I have seen mighty miracles as a result of God’s People uniting to pray purposefully. I have seen God answer prayers over and over again. I understand that the Word of God instructs us to “keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.” (Matthew 7:7) It goes on to tell us to keep seeking and knocking. I have read it and I am encouraged by it. But it is still not God’s Motivation.

God is motivated by righteous people. No one is righteous – not even one. (Romans 3:10) The only pathway to righteousness is because of faith in God who forgives sinners. (Romans 4:5) Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is our gateway to God. (John 14:6) Righteousness is right standing with God. The only way that this is fully accomplished is by His Grace. His Grace that is enough for me to enter the heavenly realm and speak to the Father with bold confidence. However, sometimes religion gives us the false thought that there is more to righteousness than a relationship through repentance. It tells us that there is some act or action that makes us worthy of God’s Full and Constant Attention. The only way a person becomes righteous is through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways.

Righteousness always requires repentance. Always. I was reading the story of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33. The account of a boy who became king at the tender age of 12. Manasseh led the people of Judah and Jerusalem to do more evil than the surrounding pagan nations. He even set up idols in the temple constructed by Solomon dedicated to God. The Lord spoke to Manasseh and the people warning them but the ignored Him. Manasseh was taken prisoner. He was led away by a ring placed in his nose by the Assyrians bound in heavy chains. While in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before God. When he prayed the Lord listened and was moved by his request. This man had thumbed his nose at the Lord completely. He had gone so far as to practice sorcery, divination, and witchcraft consulting with psychics and mediums. Yet when Manasseh truly repented and accepted God’s Mercy in all humility it moved the Lord. He was brought back to Jerusalem and given his kingdom. He realized that God was God alone and tore down all the shrines built to honor other gods. His deeds recorded in The Book of the Kings of Israel even though every sinful deed and record of unfaithfulness is equally chronicled in The Book of the Seers right down to the location of every shrine and Asherah pole constructed with every idol placed there. God honors humble prayers.

And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.”  Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.  (Daniel 10:11-12)  Daniel prayed humble prayers. The Lord sent an angel to him to tell Daniel that he was precious to God and a command had been released in the Heavenlies to honor his humble request. I wonder today if the prayers of the righteous go unanswered because the key component of humility has been left out.

The word humble or “kana” means to bring low and into subjection. It is not exalting one’s power but fully accepting God’s Grace as enough. It is the meekness that accepts God’s Will and remains faithful to His Way even when things are not going as planned or expected. If my people will humble themselves and pray…to give up our way and fully accept His Way is to have a humble heart. Humility before the Lord also known as meekness is to be overly submissive to Him. It means to comply with all the Lord requires which is to repent and seek His Face. The answer to every prayer is found in the person of Jesus Christ who gives us access to the Father.

If you are frustrated today by unanswered prayers, consider spending some time with the Father. Examine your heart. Consider your thoughts. Filter your mind. Sometimes we lose sight of what truly is the most important aspect of our Christian life to fight battles that we are not called to fight and to wage war against people rather than standing against the enemy. We must become one people with one purpose – one heart and one mind – full of God’s Love, living in His Favor and fruitful in every way to advance His Kingdom. These are the people who know who they are in Christ and stand confidently in times of trouble. Together. I must submit and surrender my life including every prayer to God not because I am right but through the righteousness offered by the Cross. It really doesn’t matter if I am right – when I am called to be the Light!

I want to partner with you today. I ask the Lord to grant you the desires of your heart in accordance with His Perfect Will. I find it encouraging that despite all of his faults and failures, the Lord still saw fit to rescue Manasseh and restore his kingdom out of His Love, Grace and Mercy. Because of Jesus Christ, even though I have a list of faults and failures just like him that the grace and goodness God has given me is more than enough to establish His Power for His Glory in my life. He is a good God. He is an even greater Father. His Love for us is based solely on His Perception of us not our perception of ourselves – surely someone should clap. As I pray today, I lay down everything that somehow managed to take precedence above the Father. I will not be led away by the enemy’s lies today or held in bondage by unconfessed sin. I don’t want to live in exile from the Lord but am taking the time to pray humble prayers. Thank you Lord for reminding me today that you alone are my righteousness!

Romans 3:22 (NLT) We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

Grace To Pray

Grace To Pray

John 14:12-14 (NKJV) “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

Do you believe that God answers prayer? Let’s be real for a moment. Do you pray with expectancy? Do you come boldly and confidently before the Throne of God each day? Jesus was speaking plainly. He was not using parables or descriptive terms. He was direct. “And whatever you ask in My Name, that I will do.” Salvation is only the beginning of the complete work of Jesus Christ in our natural life. He has “greater” things in store for those who decide to plant faith and sow confidence in their life. To believe in Jesus Christ and His Willingness to do what He says that He will do. We say that we believe but our prayers are prime indicators of the reality of faith in us.

To pray big prayers is to expect God’s Word to come to pass. Hope is not for the things we can do, can see or can accomplish in life. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. The evidence of things not seen but totally possible in our life. The impossible is the pathway to the things hoped for. God is glorified when the natural is impacted by the supernatural. When extraordinary things happen in the lives of ordinary people. How do we find the faith to pray those prayers? To embrace the impossible situations according to full expectation in God’s Ability and not our own? Can I really trust the Lord to keep His Word and do greater things in me and through me? Absolutely.

Daniel 9:20-23 (NKJV) Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision…

The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God.” (Daniel 9:23 NLT) I believe our prayers would change if people understood how much God really loves us. His Intent is take every detail of our life and work it out for our good and for His Glory. (Romans 8:28) Every prayer offered to the Lord in faith and hope releases a command in Heaven. It calls all the heavenly beings into action. Daniel came to the Lord fasting and praying. God responded. I believe that when I pray God responds in the heavenly realm first. This is important. God’s Ways are higher than our ways. His Thoughts are too. The promise that offers us solace is that every word released over our life cannot return to Him void – it has to do what He set if forth to accomplish. But why?

God loves us. We are precious to God. Looking at my life from my perspective, I see all my sins, faults, failures, weaknesses and shortcomings. When God looks at me, He sees Jesus. The Holy Spirit identifies me as His Child. His Heart is moved by love. When I come to the Lord with child-like faith, it is as the petition of a child to a parent. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him as serpent?” (Matthew 7:8-10) God is good. He is a loving and attentive Father. He loves us no matter what our present condition may be. His Love is defined by mercy that makes it available even when rejected or refused. He still sends it new each morning.

Mark 11:23-24 (NKJV)  For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8) Salvation is available by grace through faith – it is a Gift from God. Do you believe that our greatest power is manifested in weakness? Humility is the realization that apart from Jesus Christ that I am nothing and can produce nothing of worth in my life. It is by this approach of faith in the Grace of God that we are able to pray with great expectation believing that He who has promised is not only able but willing to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can think or ask. It has nothing to do with me other than my ability and willingness to believe by faith in the Grace and Love of God.

Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” I do not deserve the life that God has given me through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, I must accept the Gift of New Life by His Grace. I cannot earn it. I cannot fully rationalize unconditional love so I must believe it by faith alone. When I pray, it must be with full expectation not that God can do it but that He will do it because He loves me. I must gain greater confidence in the Love of God to experience fulfillment that comes from Him. God gives us grace to pray. He helps us in our weakness. Even when we do not know what to pray for or how to pray, the Holy Spirit steps in to do it for us through us. We must humble ourselves each day and pray. Pride tells you it’s dumb to continue to pray when God doesn’t move immediately. The flesh is offended that one might engage in such futility as it lay slowly dying to the new creation you are becoming. The enemy wants to give you a long list of to-do’s that somehow are supposed to motivate the Lord on your behalf, but the Truth is that the moment you began praying, a command was given…because you are precious to God.

James 5:13-16 (NKJV) Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

How many people walk in to church services suffering and sick only to leave the very same way? Why as believers are we okay with this tragedy? The altar call begins and no one comes. The prayer of faith will save the sick. I have seen some with cancer come to church and not ask for a single prayer. I have seen those suffering come, sit in the back, and never have a single hand touch them. There is a bottle of oil on the altar that is still half full. Why is not emptied on the hurting each service? This is not in any way an accusation but an internal examination of my own prayer life and expectation. If I know God is willing to answer my prayers, why do I not pray more? Where are the signs, miracles and wonders, all those greater works that Jesus promised? Why aren’t they here? Why not now? Have we lost our expectation? Is it somehow misplaced? Are we more concerned with the program rather than our purpose? We are building a Kingdom, a fully-functioning Body of Believers who live in unison with one heart, one mind and one purpose. We must get it together. We must begin to pray with expectation again to receive all that is promised those who do. It begins with me. It begins with you. God, give us the grace to pray. Not just any prayer, but the effective fervent prayers of those in right-standing with You.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV) Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Praying for Prosperity

Praying for Prosperity

I Chronicles 4:10 (NKJV) And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.

Several years ago, Dr. Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book titled “The Prayer of Jabez”. It was a huge hit. Based on just two verses of in the Old Testament, it would become a mainstay of prayer for many. It also would be turned into a “prosperity gospel” of sorts which many mega ministries. I am not against prosperity gospel at all. I believe that God wants to bless His People…as their souls prosper putting natural resources in proper order and focusing on the spiritual blessings and fruit of His Spirit. It is our goal to seek the Kingdom of God first, then God will add other things. I can personally attest that as the Kingdom becomes your focus all that glitters is no longer gold and those simple fruits will become the substance of satisfaction for our daily life.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

God is good. He is a gracious Father. He is an excellent provider for His Children. He loves to bless us. What parent doesn’t like to bless their children? To give them better than what they had. To make their life comfort and complete in every way possible. The selflessness of parenthood is definitely a trait handed down by the Father who would give His Son to provide access to those who were once lost to Him. The Fruit of the Spirit consisting of love, joy, and peace are the three things people long for the most. We want to experience kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and even self-control. These are not naturally occurring qualities in humanity. However, spiritually they are all overflowing from God’s Kingdom as the Holy Spirit looks for fertile places in our hard hearts to plant them deep within, watering them with the Word of God, protecting them, nurturing them, giving them time to grow, develop and mature. This is soul prosperity. A soul that is able to produce such things no matter how things are going all around us. To experience love, joy and peace on the most challenging day, diverse conditions and overwhelming circumstances knowing, trusting and believing that God is good, His Love Constant and our life secure in the Father’s Hand.

Proverbs 18:21 (NKJV) Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Before taking one more step, I just have to say to all the parents and guardians of children, consider every single word spoken to them carefully. The power of death and life are in our tongues. The future is seeded by the words sown into these little ones. Every word counts. Words sown that cannot be taken back can be removed by repentance. It is okay to tell our kids when we are wrong or harsh. It doesn’t make us a bad parent or show weakness. It teaches them to be humble and apologize as well. We must lead by example. Now back to Jabez…

His mother named him Jabez because an excruciating and overwhelming experience. He was innocent. An infant in the womb on his way out. Yet his mother, in her pain, hurt and frustration, labeled her precious baby – “He will cause pain.” Jabez was not a label of the past but a terrible prediction and prophesy of his life in general. Evil oaths, angry words, and verbal confusion cause negativity to distill into human reality. Whether spoken by others about you or it is by our own declaration, curses concentrate on our soul like a cancer silently growing into a dysfunctional determination of our destiny. God wants to change all that today. He is providing us an example of changing the course of time and inevitability of our future to align it with what He has called us and become who He created us to be. New creations are born of the context and content of our conversation. Will I be who the world says that I am or who God created and called me to be?

“And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed…”

The first thing to note in this passage is that Jabez was a believer. He believed in God enough to converse with him. I Chronicles 4:9 tells us that he was honorable. Access to God the Father comes through His Son, Jesus Christ. You cannot come to the Father but through the Son. There is no other way. God loves you. He hears you. But He cannot grant your petition outside of faith in Jesus Christ. To come close to us would be the end of us as His Goodness consumed the sin within us. By grace we are saved through faith, the Grace of God is provided in the Blood of the Son. I know the Cross was messy, violent and overwhelming but it is absolutely necessary to identity with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus to have eternal life and access to God. Through Jesus, we can come boldly and ask anything in His Name and God’s Will is granted to us which as is exceedingly abundantly more than we can think or ask.

Jabez asked God to “bless me indeed.” The word “indeed” is important. It means in fact, in reality, in truth, truly. It is added for emphasis to confirm and amplify the previous statement. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. (John 8:36) Jabez asked God to bless him indeed. God desires to bless His Children. Those who desire a life that prospers in the fullness of God. I believe this prayer is born of the revelation of God’s Love for us. To suddenly realize through divine interaction that there is more to life than this for God’s People accessed through the intimate relationship apart from the world’s influence. The more I love the Lord the less appealing sin becomes because it causes a breach between us. I want to please God simply because I love Him.

Jabez believed opening his heart to the possibility of supernatural increase in his life. You have been promised provision from the surplus supply of Heaven. God has given us every spiritual blessing. We are provided an inheritance. More than enough. Surrendering our life and every natural resource of our life to His Word, His Work and His Will precipitates prosperity. Divine prosperity begins in our heart, mind, and soul as we give God more and more of the property of our life including time, talent and treasure investing in the Kingdom.

“Enlarge my territory…”

Ephesians 3:17-19 (NKJV)  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The fullness of God cannot be contained in the finite area of our life. The sheer capacity of His Goodness requires room to expand and grow in us. Jabez asked God to take the boundaries and borders off of his life. He invited the Lord to stretch him beyond comfort, convenience and control. He was allowing God to break every chain, remove every hindrance, tear down every wall even those self-constructed, and erase every lie.  The endless possibility of God is overwhelming outside of trust and reliance on the Lord. The shaking and moving of life once settled to “enlarge” our territory can be very frightening. Like Peter jumping out of the boat was thrilling and exciting until he saw how big the waves and powerful the wind were, then his faith ran out and he was drowning in doubt. When you ask for more, increase and enlargement it produces an unsettling of our heart, mind and soul so that God can release the full potential of our life.

John 12:24-25 (NKJV) Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

To enlarge our territory is to destroy human expectation altogether. To step into the unknown regions of God’s Providence including provision and promises which is to walk entirely by faith and not by sight or human rationalization. Miracles happen in the impossible. If you can do it, God’s Plan is bigger. I wonder how many truly can pray this prayer with an open and honest heart willing to accept the challenges of enlargement required for fulfillment. To jump fearlessly into the depths of God’s Love even we cannot feet cannot touch the solid ground of logic to bask in the deeper things and hidden places of blessing and prosperity. A seed must go in the ground to be fruitful. It must die to self and give way to change in substance and form in order to fulfill its potential. We must be willing to do the same.

“That Your hand would be with me…”

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV) And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

God is ready to empower all who invite His Works and Resources of Power. God’s Power is released by His Authority to those who humbly accept His Grace as enough. Grace is provided to us and must be accepted in humility. We must give up control in order to be satisfied by grace. Is God’s Grace enough for you today? Ask yourself the question, do I have regrets? Do I live in shame? Do I doubt God based on my ability? To ask God to place His Hand upon us is complete surrender to His Authority, Power and Grace in our life. To say, I am not enough but You are my everything. To accept human weakness, release it to Presence and let His Spirit fill you with exactly what you need experience resurrection power. Jabez knew his limitations. He was well aware of his imperfections. He asked the Lord put your Hand upon me. He didn’t ask the Lord to open His Hand before Him. To desire the Heart of God we accept the Grace of God and invite His Power and Authority to operate in our weakness humbly. We must live a life of humility before the Lord to access His Power in our life.

“That You would keep me from evil…”

Psalm 119:10-12 (NKJV) With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Lord! Teach me Your statutes.

God gives us everything needed to part ways with sin in our life. We have His Word. Jesus is the Word of God that came wrapped in flesh and bones to demonstrate God’s Love. The Word of God is the Truth concerning us and must become the logic for faith to grow and prosper in our life. It feeds our Spirit. It builds the foundation to stand on when nothing in our life is going right. It is the waiting place of trust that soothes our heart and mind while patience in God’s Timing is developed. The Lord wants to keep us from evil. We partner in the process by continually consuming the Word of God to feed our soul.

John 14:26 (NKJV) But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

The seed of the Spirit is God’s Word. He plants it in our heart, nurtures it, and protects it while it becomes His Fruit reaching its full potential in our life. Sin usually is prefaced by an unfulfilled desire or unmet expectation. We must fill the voids in our life or the enemy will offer substitutions and counterfeits. The Holy Spirit is our helper. Jesus gave us His Spirit to facilitate a productive and prosperous life. We must maintain our relationship with God through His Son Jesus to have that. The Word of God and His Spirit creates an environment within us that produces a new heart and new mind that desires more than status quo. Partnering with God means running from evil and pursuing that which is good. Jabez asked the Lord to partner with him in this process.

“That I may not cause pain!”

Matthew 18:2-4 (NKJV) Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Children possess a certain innocence and helplessness when they come into the world. Like soft clay, moldable by those around them and what they experience. We have been studying childlike faith in a series at church. Coming to the Father as a child with the natural expectancy of our innocent youth. However, being born to imperfect people, there is a solid chance that your expectations may not have been met. Perhaps your family, like mine, is clearly dysfunctional. Disappointment, betraying, abandonment, abuse, neglect, and more cause children to become broken adults with unmet expectation, bitterness, boundaries, walls and insecurities that cause them to approach God with caution. They are reluctant to trust. Fearful of surrender. Too broken to give too much. Generational curses plague us. Word curses spoken over entire bloodlines cause a people in bondage who want God’s Blessings, His Promises and to prosper but cannot even dare to believe a single word is true, trustworthy or for them when it comes to the Lord. Friend, God is good. He is a Good Father. It doesn’t matter how you got here, what you went through, or how many times you have fallen – His Heart yearns for you. He loves you and desires you above all things. His Grace is enough to lift you up into His Arms, wash you with His Word, wrap you up in righteousness, and fully revive, restore and renew your life. You have to come to Him like a child. Jabez did just that. Uttering the one thing that he thought was unsolvable, unfixable, and unthinkable. God – that I may not cause pain. His mother’s label was erased in that moment as “God granted Him what He requested.”

Psalm 1:3 (NKJV) He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

It has been 17 years since I read I Chronicles 4:9-10 for the first time. I have it hanging on the wall in my house. I have read it in passing a number of times and prayed the same prayer. I believe the seed planted by it has finally begun to bear fruit. I don’t see the prosperity gospel in the net worth of my life or what I have but the fact that when I wake up – the Lord is with me. When I go through the day, He is still with me. When I lose my way, He is right there waiting for me. When I lose it, He still listens. The Presence of God has caused my life to prosper with in my heart and soul. God wants to bless us. He desires nothing more than to give us His Absolute Best. But God will release nothing to me that will destroy me, distract me or detour me from His Purpose. My heart is His First Priority. My salvation is His Purpose. To seek the Kingdom of God first allows everything in His Storehouses to be released to me without changing the condition of my heart or ability to trust Him. If I have all that I need, want and desire outside of my relationship with Christ, I would leave Him and so would you. It is human nature. It is in my need for Jesus that I have found true prosperity. The kind that Paul describes when he says, “I know how to be abased and how to abound.” The secret is that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. If I have live apart from Jesus to have it, I don’t want it. The prayer of Jabez is about so much more than filling our bank account with funds, our homes with stuff, and expanding our influence. It is about becoming a new creation and claiming the future and hope God promised no matter how it impacts our existence today. He must increase. I must decrease. To live is Christ and die is gain. When our soul truly prospers the seed of faith hidden inside of it, you will prosper in all seasons and all ways.

3 John 1:2 (NKJV) Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

Praying in the Spirit

Praying in the Spirit

Romans 8:26-28 (NKJV) Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us[a] with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This verse can be exciting in the beginning of a new thing, but as the wait prolongs the desired outcome it can also be a source of contention. God’s Timing is perfect. It promises to make whatever you are anticipating beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3) Everything has its season which everything in our life has a purpose of productivity all working together for a harvest. Not every season is as pleasant to endure but all have the potential of fruitfulness. The eternity placed in our heart by God is not fully redeemed until we die and leave this world behind yet death is avoided at all costs. The complexity of God’s Plan for our live is incomprehensible by finite human minds. Engrossed in the moment and overwhelmed by temporary things – the thought of waiting is approached with dread. The truth of the matter is “no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Therefore, our life in God requires constant and abiding trust.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

Trust is a learned behavior completely contrary to human nature. The inability of mankind to be perfect gives way to one’s disability in this area. Life is hard. People disappoint. The enemy’s lies entangle us and trip us up along the way. Living in a world that is completely contrary to God’s Kingdom makes it even harder. The dark shadows in need of the Light of His Love keep us bound up in a place of not knowing. By the time the Light of His Love is revealed, it is cast on a hard and callous remainder. Trusting the Lord with all our heart is tough when our heart is broken in a million pieces. Which part do you want Lord? Jesus says, “All of it.” Lean not on your own understanding is not the same as “go with what you know.” In all your ways acknowledge Him. God doesn’t want to show Himself faithful in part of our life but all of it. He shall direct your path. Why? So that “all things (will) work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His Purpose.”

I John 2:1 (NKJV) My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 

John 14:25-26 (NKJV) “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

Jesus is our Advocate. He sits next to God the Father constantly interceding for us. He reminds His Father that we belong to Him. Jesus did not leave us here without a helper. He knew just how hard it would be to trust and believe so He gave us His Spirit. When He released His Spirit on the Cross, He tore the temple veil from top to bottom allowing us complete access to God the Father through Himself. The Spirit would come to inhabit God’s People on Pentecost. The Spirit of Jesus Christ lives in us. Greater is He who lives in us than he that is in the world. Another word for advocate is to champion. Jesus is our champion. Do you believe that today? Are you feeling all alone? Overwhelmed? Having trouble trusting and believing? You are not alone many Christians struggle with trusting the Lord for today let alone every other day. You are not alone. The Spirit of the Living God is inside of you waiting to help you when you don’t understand His Ways.

Ephesians 6:18 (NKJV) Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…”

For just a few moments let’s talk about praying in the Spirit. This can mean many things doctrinally and from theology to theology. This is not about whether your church speaks in other tongues or doesn’t think it happens anymore. Speaking in tongues is a prayer language a form of communication in our attempts at intercession. I worship with other believers who speak Spanish. When they pray in Spanish, I don’t know what they are saying but that doesn’t mean that their prayers are not effective in my life. The Kingdom of God has a language utilized by the Spirit. Just because I don’t speak the language doesn’t change the substance or effectiveness of my prayer. I believe our prayer language is a gift. Some use and some do not. Another story for another time. What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? You absolutely can and should know what it means and utilize the partner given to you for this purpose.

I John 5:14 (NKJV) Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

The most important element of prayer is faith. We must pray with confidence believing that God is able and willing to do exactly what His Word says that He will do for us. Confidence is the essential ingredient to trust. Without confidence, you will always be suspect. Doubt penetrates the mind of those who are not confident in hope. Faith eliminates doubt. When we believe – we will pray. To pray in the Spirit – you must believe.

John 14:13 (NKJV)And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

God’s Glory is demonstrated through His Son, Jesus. We must use the Name of Jesus to gain access to the Father. He is the only Way to right standing with our Father in Heaven. Whatever we ask in His Name, God promises in His Word that He will do. Our prayer credentials are the Name of Jesus Christ. To pray in the Spirit, we must use the Name of Jesus to gain access to the Presence of God and come boldly with confidence before Him.

John 15:7 (NKJV) If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

Prayer is a relational conversation. It is the product of a relationship. In order to abide in Christ, we must have a fully consummated relationship with Him. He lives in us so we must live in Him to complete the connection. Our prayers will only be based on God’s Character, Word and Will if we know Him. There is nothing I can do to move the heart of God. He loves me just like I am. His Grace is enough to open the door for me to enter a loving relationship with Him. I must rely on His Character, His Word and His Will to become one with Him. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Word who came in flesh to show us just how much His Father loves us. To pray in the Spirit, we must abide in Christ and live in His Love.

James 5:16 (NKJV) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

A righteous man or woman is not a sinless person for there is no such thing. We must live in a constant state of confession of our sin and true repentance to see the miraculous outcomes that God has promised. To live a life of effective prayer and fervent prayer without living in a right relationship with God will lead to frustration. The Power of God is released in His Grace. Grace is made manifest in our weakness. If you are not willing to repent, then your prayers will not be answered because you are not walking in righteousness. Sure, we try not to sin but do anyway because it is our nature. The Holy Spirit lives in us working God’s Word through our life like seed, and nurturing it to produce good fruit. Repentance keeps our heart fertile so seeds of faith will become confidence. Praying in the Spirit is powerful and effective when we live in true repentance.

James 1:6 (NKJV) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.

Let’s talk. Be honest. It’s just you and me. Do you really believe God will answer your prayer? Doubt is the biggest destiny diversion of all time. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. You have a measure of faith given to you by the Lord. What you do with that faith is up to you? It is important to continually work to weed out doubt and replace it with seeds of faith. God’s Word is a great place to start. It feeds our Spirit and seeds our heart. We must make the decision to trust and believe not moving until the end of a thing. What does that mean? Too often we pray for things and when they don’t happen in a microwave minute take matters into our own hand. Impatience strengthens doubt and dares us to move from waiting on the Lord into a frenzied state of panic and control. God is working all things together for your good which means He has a lot of ground to cover and many details to work through. Waiting is always part of the growth process and is not possible without believing that God will do what He promises. Praying in the Spirit must be backed by full assurance, faith, belief and total trust that keeps our fears and doubts at bay until fully eliminated.

John 14:12-14 (NKJV) “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

Friend, we have been called, equipped and qualified by Jesus Christ to even greater works. Miracles will happen. Lives will be saved, healed, delivered and fulfilled. God has a plan for each one of us that culminates in a Kingdom. Prayer is the pathway of communication that leads to such things. The powerful revelation that God will do exactly what He says and we can participate in the process through prayer will change our lives, families, workplaces, churches, and communities forever. We can split hairs on doctrine, theology, and religion all day long and never see the Glory of God manifested or revival break out. We can worry and fret in our waiting and let impatience still our provision, promises and prosperity in God or we can pray without ceasing accompanied by God’s Spirit who infuses and empowers our prayers making the effective and life changing. Praying in the Spirit and partnering with the Kingdom of God will produce greater things in the Body of Christ.

Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV) For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Being fully persuaded is the key to have patience in God’s Timing. Prayer is the opportunity to communicate with the Lord and partner with His Plan. It will give us the confidence needed to wait through God’s Process as He works all things together for our good and His Glory. To trust and believe that God loves us and nothing can separate us from that love is impossible if our life is not consummated in the Spirit. His Spirit is the identifier of God’s People as those born again in Jesus Christ. Have you prayed today? Have you prayed in the Spirit? Power-packed prayer must be exercised from a place of faith and confident hope believing that He who called you is faithful and responding to His Call each day.

Psalm 27:8 (NLT) My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Rejoicing Together Always

Rejoicing Together Always

Philippians 1:18-21 (ESV) What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

The text came in long after I was sleeping from our daughter at summer camp. She shared her experience and all the enthusiasm that I have come to expect from the “mountaintop” times hidden away with God and a bunch of young people. I cannot imagine a place in time without cellphones but they don’t need them there. I am getting only bits and pieces of what is happening in this gathering. Did you ever go to church camp as a kid? Our family moved from Georgia to Florida when I was a teenager. My mom reconnected with some church friends and decided that I was going to camp that summer. Pulling up to the church, I had never seen so many young people in my life. It was a large congregation of more than 25,000 so you can only imagine the number of children. My mom stopped the car and I immediately protested. I didn’t know any of the kids. I was an outsider looking in. She quickly found her friend who was a youth leader and deposited me along with my suitcase before heading off. My only expectation for that week was to survive, but God had other plans. It was my first journey to the mountaintop experience. Like when Moses entered the Presence of God, he came out all aglow. Then life and all the Israelites became the crushing reality that surrounded him. When kids come back they are pumped up, ready to live every moment for Jesus Christ, and fully immersed in the Presence and Power of God for days. Kids come back with full intentions to walk with the Lord. Then life happens all over again.

I prayed for our girls before they left and have continued to do so. However, after reading her text, I began evaluating her experience. As much as I hate to admit it, I became a bit cynical. Cynicism is not my natural inclination. I am more skeptical over their spiritual diet then what they feed their natural body. I want to know that every word invested to them is God’s Word straight from His Throne. This is the place from which my cross examination and close scrutiny arises. The Holy Spirit immediately rushed in with a simple request, “Rejoice with her.” She is on the mountain. I am in reality. How can I evaluate a work so far removed? Trust me. I do not doubt that our kids are encountering the Lord in a whole new way. However, sometimes when we are living in reality it is easy to over evaluate what God is doing. As her parent, I want this to change her from the inside out and empower her to live a holy and righteous life that continues long after she returns. She is on the mountain surrounded by the Glory of God and my desire for success in her spiritual life tries to build a net at the bottom of her mountain top experience rather than rejoicing with her there.

Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

It was not hard to pick a topic for my Bible Study today. I must learn to rejoice always. Philippians 1 leads us to a new understanding of what it means to rejoice. To rejoice, whether in pretense or in truth, that Christ is proclaimed. The word “pretense” means pretending, feigning, make believe or a false showing of something. How could this even be written in God’s Word? We rejoice in the Truth right? I Corinthians 13:4-7 describes love and all its best qualities. “Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing (sin) but rejoices in the Truth (God’s Love is greater). Truth is that sin overtook us but His Grace overwhelms us. In Christ, I am more than a conqueror because He loves me and gives me victory. The proclamation of Jesus Christ is to tell of His Great Love, His Gift and His Power. When the Name of Jesus is spoken it evokes all of these qualities. Full understanding is not required. His Ways are higher and so are His Thoughts. The Lord is doing more than we can think, ask or imagine. Therefore, it is not up to me to fully evaluate His Work but rejoice in the fact His Name is proclaimed.

To proclaim the Name of Jesus. Not fancy preaching or intellectual teaching, but to cry out, call out, and confess His Name. It is simple. It doesn’t have to be backed by human wisdom or theological dialogue. To say the Name of Jesus releases Power into the atmosphere. It promotes change in the present. When a person comes to the altar whispers His Name it doesn’t matter what the intention of their heart is in that moment, there is an opening or a crack in which Christ fits.

Romans 12:8-16 (ESV) Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Rejoice with those who rejoice.”

When everything is going wrong, and nothing is going right – it is tough to rejoice with others. When you get passed over for the promotion, but someone seemingly undeserving gets it. Or your child is still sick while another one healed. To pilfer through life while others prosper. The enemy wants us to compare our life with other people. His goal is to make us all the prodigal’s brother comparing and contrasting our blessings, promises and purpose with another. God has no favorites. He doesn’t have step-children but fully adopted sons and daughters. We are of the same bloodline through Christ. Our inheritance is secure. To desire another’s belongings and destiny in life is to forfeit our own. We seek that which our heart desires. It takes confidence in Christ’s Love for me to rejoice in the blessing and good fortune of another. It is the shield that keeps envy and bitterness from building barriers between us and a rich, satisfying life.

To celebrate with another creates unity in the Body of Christ. Let love be genuine. If my child is promoted in their job, I celebrate their accomplishment. We are not in competition. It should be the same with other people as well. If God’s Plan for me is for me and no one else, it cannot be compromised or claimed by another. I have nothing to worry about so I am free to rejoice with those who rejoice. To put all of our energy and effort into love and harmony with Jesus and other people creates a bond that the enemy cannot break. A body of fully moving parts who do their own work together.

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

The hope that I have found in Jesus Christ never ever leads to disappointment. God is not a man therefore He cannot lie or change His Mind. Once the commandment to bless you is released, His Word cannot return to Him void. It must do what God released it to do. This means there will be days when happiness seems elusive so it is inexpressible joy of knowing Jesus must be what is clung to. Trials and tribulation are inevitable. Patience is a fruit from His Spirit that keeps us company in the waiting. Constant prayer is nothing more than maintaining confident, constant, and conscious conversation with the Lord. Intimacy with Jesus Christ comes when we stop looking for Him in other people and find Him in us.

I Thessalonians 5:16-19 (ESV)  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.

Rejoice always.

Is it even possible? Saul met Jesus just going about normal life. He was a religious man. He thought he was upholding his belief in God by persecuting the Christians. Saul was not evil. His intentions were not bad. He just didn’t know the Lord. Jesus made a formal introduction that day. Saul became Paul when his eyes were dimmed to this world and focused on Christ. One experienced changed his heart forever. I wonder sometimes if we become like Saul unknowingly and certainly unwillingly. Persecuting verbally the Work of God in others because our eyes are set on this life and not Jesus Christ. A lack of understanding is enough to evoke doubt from even the most believing and unsuspecting heart. I believe that in that moment when everything becomes clear to us in the Presence of Jesus it will bring us some dismay to find out God didn’t do it all our way. The way we worship, choose to serve, or interpret the Word of God may be different than what it really is. I am human and so are you. We do not know everything even though our pride might argue the point. It is cloudy at best. Challenged to love beyond self and serve outside of comfort – the struggle is real. When we are in the valley or just immersed in reality, it is easy to question, speculate or over analyze what is happening on the mountains in the Presence of God. We must learn to rejoice in every move of God until it reaches us.

Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.

God is a Good Father. He doesn’t leave us without options. If we learn to pray without ceasing, be thankful in all circumstances, and stop quenching the flow of His Spirit in us, through us and among us – we will accomplish His Will for us. He has prescribed a plan and purpose for us with a future and hope individually that is not dependent or any way impacted by what He is doing in others. God calls us His Masterpiece. He is molding and shaping our life into something unique and wonderful. Focus on Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith and access point to all that is within God’s Presence with our name on it. God loves you. Jesus died for you. His Spirit lives in you. His Desire is for you. It is all individually secure but corporately enhanced when we learn to rejoice with others. Don’t overanalyze what God is doing. Outside of faith found in His Word nothing will ever be completely logical. It takes the impossible to release the supernatural. It is a choice to rejoice in all things by faith in Jesus Christ and confident hope that He knows exactly what He is doing. Confidence in Christ causes us to rejoice. It is a reason to shout and give Him praise rather than worrying about every little doctrine and theology. Lord, help us get love, faith, and hope right so we can rejoice in all things. It is all about you Jesus nothing more and nothing less.

Lord, thank you for moving in and through our young people at camp. Thank you Jesus for reaching down and touching our daughters. You are an awesome God. Prepare me to receive them when they come home. Lord, to keep the passionate ember you are kindling in them burning brightly. May it spread like wildfire everywhere they go and in every word they speak. Lord, teach me to rejoice with all who rejoice…always. I ask your Spirit to quench any cynicism that rises up and fill it with confident hope. Thank you for Your Presence always open and available to me even in the valley. Thank you for joy and the ability to rejoice always. Amen.

Psalm 70:4 (ESV) May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”

Substance of Prayer

Substance of Prayer

Psalm 141:1-2 (ESV) O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

In the Tabernacle and then the Temple, the high priest was tasked with burning incense. Incense is a gum, spice or other substance that is burned for its sweet smell it produces. Incense comes from the Latin incensus or set on fire. Incense refers to the substance consumed and burned not the aroma emitted. The high priest would offer incense while performing morning and evening prayers in the Presence of the Lord symbolic of the prayers of the people to God. Prayer is the incense of our life. It is to be sweet smelling and sacrificial. Pouring our hearts out to the Lord in reverence of who He is.

Give ear to my voice when I call to you!

God hears every word spoken. The conversations among each other. The secret whispers in the dark. The cries of His Children never uttered past thought. He is interested in us. He longs to live in intimacy with us. Too often our approach to the Lord is like the local fast food drive-thru, speeding up the window, barking our requests in detail into the speaker, pulling around to the window impatiently, and grabbing our food then speeding off. God forbid the poor worker gets our order wrong or it is delayed at which time it is our duty to angrily give them a piece of our mind. Oh, I know what you are thinking. I would never treat God like that. But I ask you to carefully consider your prayer life today as I do mine. To examine your heart for the content of godly communication in your life. How do you approach the Presence of God? Do you enter in with thanksgiving and praise or barging in to demand what’s ours? Is it an ongoing conversation between friends and lovers or a clandestine affair of convenience? God hears every word that is spoken, what is He hearing from you? What am I a saying to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on a daily basis? “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,”

Isaiah 56:6-8 (ESV) “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Are my prayers incense to the Lord? In Isaiah, an image of prayer arises that may change one’s perception of prayer altogether. Good, I hope so. Prayer has not lost its power but people have forgotten its purpose. By joining ourselves to the Lord, it becomes our privilege to minister to Him, to love His Name, to be His Servant, and to hold tightly to the covenant given to us in our relationship with Jesus Christ. He promises His People to be brought to “my holy mountain” or into His Presence. To make them joyful in my house of prayer. The old time church believed in travailing before the Lord and there are times and seasons that may elicit such prayers. However, the true power and potential of our prayers come when our confidence in the Lord allows us to praise His Name and live in His Presence apart from the distractions of need or want knowing and believing God will do exactly what He has promised to do. These are the prayers that silence worry, fear, anxiety and doubt. Power packed petitions that silence the enemy in the Greatness of our God. The Lord waits for “the one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV)  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Psalm 139:16 (ESV) Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Romans 8:28 (ESV)  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Do you believe these verses are true? Is this the potential for your life in Jesus Christ? Can I ask you to consider your prayer life? If this is the Truth concerning your life, what is there to ask for? God has plans for our welfare never to be in distress. He has given us a future and hope through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Lord promises that when you call on His Name, come into His Presence and pray that He will hear you. When you seek Him, you will find Him. Are you seeking the Lord wholeheartedly? Only you know the answer to that. Truly believing and trusting the Lord takes our faith and plants it in His Word, relying on His Wisdom, and walks in confident confidence not in our condition or circumstances but the constancy of His Great Love. God doesn’t lie or change His Mind. Once His Word is released, it cannot come back to Him until it accomplishes exactly what He sent it forth to do. It tells us in Psalm 139 that every day of our life is prerecorded and therefore provided for by God. We do not lack any good thing because He is a Good and Gracious Father. And finally, trusting the Lord includes those days when He is still working to work all things together for our good and His Glory. What does my prayer life sound like on those days? Is it an incense filled with sweet praise? Faith and confident hope changes the consistency and content of our prayers changing them from desperate cries for help to desperate cries for more of Him.

“The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

James 5:12-16 (ESV) Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Prayer and praise are partners. They go together. Our prayer must be infused with praise to become powerful. Yes, there will be times when our human weakness needs assistance. However, the majority of our prayer time should be incense on the altar of God – day and night, night and day – let incense arise. In Exodus 30:7-8, there is a direct command for the priest to enter the Presence of God each morning and evening with incense. This represents prayers and praise to the Lord perpetually. Is your prayer life consistent? Day and night and night and day. What is the content? Is it incense to the Lord? Does it give off a sweet aroma of faith mixed with confident hope emitting praise and honor and glory to God? Or does it stink of doubt and fear crying out for what is already given? Exodus 30:37 makes it clear that prayer is not about me and what I want but the Lord and who He is. The vessels on the altar of God took human form (2 Timothy 2:21) when the Spirit of the Living God came to live in us and make us His Temples (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

My righteousness is not me, but Christ who is in me. Every good thing in my life is straight from God. Nothing good lives in me apart from the Lord. When I come to Him and communicate with the Lord, it is an opportunity to express my faith in His Power and confidence in His Plan. Am I wasting my time whining and complaining or do I spend it wisely worshipping the Lord? I can only evaluate my own time spent in the Presence of God. God is able. His Power is not in any way lessened by my ability to believe but when I do by chance get it right and plant my faith in His Power, watch out! The prayer of a righteous man or woman is powerful. My righteousness is Christ alone. If this is what I believe, it changes my prayer time. To fully invest our time and energy in praising Jesus even in our prayer time changes the content of our life. There is power in prayer, I have seen its wonderworking power firsthand. Imagine the change in the atmosphere if God’s People stopping begging for bread and began singing the praises of an abundant God. The Light of His Love would burn brightly from our passion. The incense of praise overpowering the stench of doubt. Revival would come as God rushed in to get a closer whiff of His People’s Praise. The drawing in of His Mighty Breath would pull us closer and deeper than ever before. Lord, set us on fire with passion for who You are. Make the words of our mouth and mediation of our heart agree and pour out praise. May the incense of our prayer life be praise and adoration formed from faith and trust in You!

2 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

 

Quietly

quietly

Psalm 62:5-8 (NLT) Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.

I am pretty sure that I was born talking. From my earliest report cards, teachers have tried to put a positive spin on my need to communicate excessively. Conversation is not a struggle at all and I can strike up a conversation with just about anybody – anywhere much to the chagrin of my children. Never at a loss for words made silence a difficult place for me. Filling the atmosphere with words, padded the unease of the unknown. Quiet is awkward to most people when others are present. It is the greatest fear in all conversation. The moment when there is nothing left to say but only listen. No wonder “let all that I am wait quietly before the Lord” is such a struggle.

God still speaks to people. I am heartbroken when people tell me that they do not hear the Voice of God on a regular basis. It means that although the Creator of the Universe is talking – those who He loves and desires are not listening. God is always speaking to us. He is always telling us what He has in store for us, how to find it, and comforting us when we are fearful. The Lord whispers truth to overcome the lie that the enemy barrages us with daily. We must learn to wait quietly on the Lord expecting Him to speak rather than wishing that He would or hoping that He does but rather knowing that God will.

When I began writing this blog eight years ago, it was with one intention. To hear the Voice of God. So each morning, I set my alarm thirty minutes earlier to read the Word of God, pray and journal whatever God chose to say to me. For eight years, every single day, the Lord has spoken to me in these moments surrendered to Him. Some mornings, He wakes me up ready to tell me something before I am ready to receive. There have only been a handful of days when I have not submitted an entry but even on those days – my journal is full for more than 2,590 days to be exact. The problem is not God speaking to us but our willingness and ability to hear Him. In John 10:27 Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice, I know them and they follow me.” We must learn to wait quietly on the Lord each day.

Psalm 119:93-96 (NLT) I will never forget your commandments, for by them you give me life. I am yours; rescue me! For I have worked hard at obeying your commandments. Though the wicked hide along the way to kill me, I will quietly keep my mind on your laws. Even perfection has its limits, but your commands have no limit.

There are a million and one teachings on prayer. How to pray. What to pray for. When to pray. The concept has been thoroughly dissected but from what perspective. Prayer is communication with God. Communication is not just talking but listening. Jesus told us how to pray. Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6) I wonder what would happen if we chose to pray this prayer then waited quietly to hear the Lord speak to us. Instead, it is human nature to lay out our cares, worries, and concerns in vivid detail and tell God exactly what is expected of Him to make our life more comfortable. The way to pray is with bold confidence.

Prayer is not asking God to do something that He is not willing to do and expecting Him to change His Mind. Prayer is an open conversation with God committing our life to His Word, His Will and His Way. It is in these moments that God tells us what to do. I have found this to be even on the most finite level of conversation. As a youth leader, I was given the task of completely renovating a new space for the young people with just $300. This included the supplies needed such office supplies and prizes. My heart wanted to give its best to these kids so used furniture was not my objective. Nobody believed that I could buy any decent furniture for the money allotted to the task. I knew God would do it so when I was leaving the house to shop – I simply prayed, “Lord, lead me.” I immediately knew the name of the department store to go to. So I went even though this store did not carry a great deal of furniture. After spending more than an hour wandering the store, I couldn’t find anything. So I prayed, “Lord, where is it?” Immediately I knew to go to the Garden Center of all places. There stacked from the floor to ceiling were six futon cartons marked down to just $25. Thank you Jesus! I bought them all and then prayed, “Lord, I need a truck.” You don’t have to believe that God will speak to you on such a level as my shopping experience, but He does.

God’s Word shapes the expectation of our heart. Sowing the Word in our life creates familiarity with the Voice of God and how He communicates. When I pray God’s Word, I always get an answer. When I pray my will and way, it is met with silence. My expectation will go unmet if based on this life and this world that I live in. It is only by spending time in the Word do I recognize His Voice and am given the opportunity to do what He says. Are you in the Word of God today? Do you have time set aside specifically to study God’s Word? How will you know His Voice if you don’t know His Word? Jesus is the Word of God wrapped in flesh that came and died for us to live. How can I know Jesus and not know the Word?

The Word of God allows us to discern the Truth from a lie. The enemy fills our life with lies and even half-truths that keep us from fully trusting and believing the Word of God. He is convincing because people are not confident. Confident hope is the product of committed faith. Our commitment to faith is evident in our desire to know the Word of God and live in its Truth. When we pray the Word of God, He answers in return. The Word fuels and feeds our Spirit so it is strengthened to engage with our flesh day by day.

Psalm 131 (NLT) Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—now and always.

Newborn babies cry when they are hungry because of an unmet need and lack of trust. They do not know where their next meal is coming from but they know they want one. As a baby grows into a toddler, they know that mama will feed them so they look for her and express their need. Even when she is fixing food, they will grab her leg, whine and flail about waiting for it to be ready. Now that my children are teenagers, if they feel hungry, which is most of the time, they go straight to the refrigerator or pantry to get food. Even those who have grown and left the nest often come in and go straight for the refrigerator. This is our progression in Jesus Christ. Newborn Christians cry out to the Lord for every discomfort and hunger they have. They do not want to wait so impatiently insist on their own way. Maturity in Christ is knowing what God’s Word says and reaching out to take it. It also means trusting God in the waiting, and overcoming the tendency to compromise due to a lack of trust and self-control. If I want what God offers, I must go to Him with confidence and wait for Him to act.

Pride is the very thing that kills our conversation with God many times. It is the idea that when God does not act immediately or according to our expectation that it is up to us to do something more. We want what God has for us… or do we? Paul talks about it in Romans 7. The struggle between our flesh and the Spirit within us is constant. I want to do what is right, but I don’t. I want to be faithful to God’s Word, but I wonder and wander. Galatians 5:16-18 further confirms the war raging for control in our mind, soul and body. We cannot hear the Voice of God because there are too many voices vying for control. How do I silence the noise to hear God’s Voice clearly?

The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and writes it on our heart. It is the examination point of every voice in our life. When we begin to stop listening to the enemy, other people and choose to wait quietly to hear the Voice of God – His Whisper can be heard. The Holy Spirit produces self-control for this reason. Confidence in the Lord and consummation with His Spirit is made known by self-control which is contrary to human nature. It is the anchor of hope that keeps us engaged when the things we pray for seem impossible to every audible voice but not in God’s Realm.

Lamentations 3:22-26 (NLT) The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.

And yet, “Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6) What is your greatest desire in life? What are your priorities? Deuteronomy 8:3 was reiterated by Jesus in Matthew 4 that people do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Most of our prayer life is consumed with asking for the things that God already promised to those who walk by faith not by sight, yoked to Jesus Christ, and simply follow His Way. To repeatedly ask for what is promised implies distrust and smacks of doubt that the One who has promised is faithful. God is going to answer a repeated request the same way every time. He does not lie or change His Mind. Your attitude and actions do not change the outcome. God already planned the outcome. He is just waiting for you to change your mind and trust Him. Believe Him. Have a little faith? Just enough to let go of your way to follow Him.

The verses preceding Lamentations 3:22-26 say this…”The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this…” The crashing waves of uncertainty, rushing wind of the storm, and the earth shaking circumstances that you are facing will overshadow the still small voice of God outside of faith and confident hope. God must become our inheritance and our portion. The One who promises is faithful but if I don’t believe it – I will not listen for His Voice but look for a way out of my troubles. Your Kingdom come – Your Will be done is a trust fall statement with God that no matter what You have me, right Lord? We will not hear the Lord’s Voice clearly until we believe that He has something worth repeating. It is only when I decide to seek Him wholeheartedly and wait for the Lord that I hear His Voice the loudest in my life.

I Kings 19:11-13 (NLT) “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

It is human nature to get caught up in words and tangled in lies. We engage in so many conversations in a day exposing our heart and mind to snares carefully laid by a ruthless enemy. Our faith in the Lord must be the foundation of our life to be secure. Confident hope anchors our soul in the belief that God is good. His Love unfailing. His Grace never ending. My future secure. When Elijah came to the Lord in his hiding, the Lord asked the prophet, “What are you doing here? Elijah laid out all his fears before the Lord. God invited Elijah to come out of his hiding place and stand before Him. It was in that place that he encountered the windstorm, the avalanche from the blast, the wind, the earthquake and then the fire. God was not in any of those things. It was after all the commotion that Elijah heard the sound of a gentle whisper. “Elijah, what are you doing here? His complaint still the same. However, Elijah was in a different place and position. He had moved from fear and doubt hiding in a cave into the Presence of God. God told him exactly what to do next in vivid detail.

God wants to talk to you. Not through anyone else, but face-to-face. Yes, YOU! His Voice is clear and audible to those who are listening wholeheartedly. Those who believe enough not to be distracted by the busyness and chaos of life but will not take another step until God directs it. God is speaking are you listening? Sometimes, God stops speaking because of disobedience and unwillingness to follow instructions. The Lord is just waiting for us to do the last thing that He said because our next step is dependent on the last. He does not lie or change his mind. He is not going to give you something else because you don’t like the last word or instruction. His Plan is perfect even though we are not. Trusting the Lord allows confidence in God’s Ability to silence doubt so we can hear His Voice clearly.

Psalm 62:1-2 (NLT) I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.

We must learn to wait quietly before God today and every day. If your heartfelt desire is to know Him more, it is impossible outside of daily communion with Him. To sit and visit with Him. Sharing your heart and listening for His Voice to share His with you as well. It will happen if we allow His Word to work in us and His Spirit to produce self-control that seeks His Presence each morning, throughout the day, and even as we lay our head down to sleep. God is with us. He is not silent. I must wait quietly to hear Him for it is by His Word that I live.

Psalm 27:7-8 (NLT) Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Holiday Blues

holiday-blues

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Today. It is a gift unwrapped when your eyes opened and you drew in the first breath of what has become a new day. It is clear that you have purpose otherwise your eyes would have beheld Jesus this morning, but instead it was the darkness, the spouse, the kids, the dog or maybe some coffee. Last night, a good old-fashioned case of the holiday blues overtook me. Not really sure why or how just like a light blanket tossed over my head. Do you ever get that way? The feeling of “so this is how life is going to be” kind of feeling. Not really satisfied or dissatisfied – you just feel like you are here. My routine has been disrupted for about a week. My schedule is not finely tuned as usual. My to-do list is finally almost caught up but my things I wanted to do list has been pared down significantly. Mama said that there would be days like this…or even if she didn’t I am going to say it and I am a mama myself. There will be days like this.

The most important step you take is the next one. Not the one that is coming two miles down the road, up the mountain or in the valley. Those are not certain. The only one that is completely possible is the next one. Think about it for a minute. Let it sink in. This holiday season is like all the rest that suck us into a vortex of doing and overdoing, scheduling and overscheduling, and producing expectations far beyond what is humanly possible. Our attempt to make memories waste moments that are precious. Traditions quickly overtake opportunity. Our spirits are to be renewed day by day but cannot be if we live in the past. Are you with me? Are you experiencing a bit of the holiday blues today? Maybe life in general is just too overwhelming and you want to give up?

To pick your mind at ease and your heart at rest, the perfect Christmas already happened. No matter how many events, pageants, services, parties, and festivities there may be what could match a sky full of angels heralding the birth of Jesus to the waiting and watching world while our Savior and King lay in a manager next to livestock in stalls on hoof-trodden hay wrapped in animal blankets. Jesus was perfect and He still is today. The first Christmas wasn’t ideal for the birthday of a King, but the King is perfect and still is today.

Galatians 6:8-10 (NLT) Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Why do Christians get the blues? Why do God’s People not always live by faith and confident hope? Hey, wait a minute, I didn’t say that I didn’t have faith or hope but that I was just a little down. Well, generally speaking, when my heart is not satisfied is usually stems from discontentment with the productivity in my life. If the things I see, do not meet my expectations. If the things I don’t see but long for somehow become impossible. When things don’t turn out the way I want them to, when I want them to or how I want them too – my faith is challenged. If not, I would never experience times like this because inexpressible joy would overflow from my life. I would do good to everyone all the time and no one would be impacted by my bad attitude, hurtful words or inability to deal with the stress of any given day. Oh, hang on, I may be the only one subject to my own agitations. If so, please bear with me today.

Nobody is perfect. It doesn’t matter if their house is perfect. Yard immaculate. Decorations on point. Presents exceptionally wrapped positioned uniformly under the tree. Outfits all matching. Menu delicious. Table set with metallic charges. Even if it smells like a fresh cut tree when you walk inside their door, it is probably an air freshener as most people have artificial trees and carefully constructed facades that they hide behind. The truth is that comparison has forced people into hiding. Hiding hurts, disappointments, pain, bitterness, dissatisfaction and the like. Surely I am the only one who gets the holiday blues or feels overwhelming so let’s tie on an apron and spread out some food invite everyone over and sing some Christmas tunes. No one will know and maybe I will feel better. Well…nice try…but it doesn’t work.

The Spirit of Christmas is the Holy Spirit released when Jesus died on the Cross. He sent His Spirit to live in us. His Spirit uses each new day to produce new faith and new hope in us. He renews us day by day and season by season. It is when our body, mind and spirit get caught up in the natural and forget about the supernatural that our mind is susceptible to depression, anxiety, and stress. We don’t mean to do it. Life can do it. Holiday pressure. Christmas lists. Menus to plan. Meals to make. Cookies to bake. Mix it all together with holiday traditions and life unexpected. This is the recipe the enemy uses to distract us and keep us from the Presence of our Savior and Lord. Jesus is the reason for the season. Of course, have I taken the time to search for Him and seek Him out in this season?

Lamentations 3:21-24 (NLT) Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us a new way, we never give up. (2 Corinthians 4:1) Some of you reading this today may think I am crazy, after all it is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas music is playing on every radio station. Parties every night. Gifts, gifts and more gifts. Family coming together. Fun and frivolity. But for some, the holiday season only makes them feel worse. I have struggled with the holiday blues my entire life. I am not really sure why but they come uninvited no matter how hard I fight. Some will be celebrating Christmas minus a loved one or significant other this year. They will smile with tears just behind their eyes as they watch others experience the joy they have lost. Some will feel sadness because the budget too tight to fill the stockings and overload the tree just happy to have a home to live in and food to eat. Others have a dark place deep inside their hard, cold heart that has never experienced the Light of Love born in a manger that Christmas so long ago. See everyone is susceptible to having a bad day. Experiencing the blues. Fighting the darkness. Being overtaken with sorrow or a sense of great loss. Stress. Anxiety. Fear. Family issues. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His Mercies never cease. Great is His Faithfulness. His Mercies begins fresh every morning! Amen and amen!

Lamentations 3:25-26 (NLT) The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.

As my mood began to plummet last night, I thought a hot shower might do the trick. A place of solitude to seek the Lord. When I don’t feel like myself or can sense the darkness closing in – I run to Jesus. He is my Hope. His Grace is enough for me. My weakness makes room for Him. His Mercy is new each day and it is the very thing that refreshes me. I have learned the hard way that I need the Lord every single day especially during the holidays. It’s funny that as long as I have read the Bible and studied God’s Word, I always somehow overlook the simplistic wisdom looking for some hidden knowledge or great secret tucked within. God’s Promises always come with instructions of exactly how to attain that which is desired.

The Lord is good to those who depend on Him. How dependent am I on the Lord today? How much am I doing myself? What is beyond the limits of my control because that is where God is? What am I hanging on to? Is it worth anything at all until I release it to the Father? The Lord is good to those who search for Him. Have I abandoned my pursuit of my Savior in exchange for busyness? Have I given up seeking for Him to search for the perfect gift? Have I stopped pressing due to exhaustion? New mercy comes in the morning, I really need to maintain rest. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Am I waiting on the Lord? Meditating on His Word. Sitting in my prayer closet silently waiting for Him to answer. Have I stopped long enough to receive what the Lord has for me? Well, there you have it the cure to the holiday blues and Christmas funk that you may be in. Jesus is all that I need to overcome all that ails me. But I won’t find Him if I don’t seek Him every day.

Luke 2:8-15 (NLT) That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

The Savior of the world. King of Kings and Lord of Lords came into this world and found no room for Him in the Inn. Though the world did not welcome Him, it did not stop Jesus from coming and completing His Mission. The town hustled and bustled just the same and darkness did not flee when the cries of the infant rippled through the universe shaking the gates of hell. Darkness could not silence the angel’s song as they announced God’s Glory had arrived. The shepherds tending flocks in the field heard the message and went to “see this thing that is happening”. They were not the only ones as the wise men followed the star seeking Jesus. Will we do the same?

In this season of giving, will Jesus receive some time and attention? While seeking out satisfaction, will I let Him satisfy my soul? In just a few short weeks, life returns to normal but will I remain the same. Are you just trying to survive the holidays or celebrating the season? Trust me. I know how hard it can be. As I prayed last night, I asked the Lord to open my heart to see His Light and feel His Love all over again. Have you done the same? Too many of our expectations this time of year are based on worldly precepts and traditions of man, but wise men and women still seek Him. Maybe all you need is the joy that comes in the morning and the mercy that refreshes given to us each new day. The Lord is waiting. He is watching. He came for you to have everlasting life. Jesus came to complete us not to compete. Comparison is a cancer that eats away at contentment. Find a few moments. Take a shower. Go in your closet and shut the door. Seek the Lord. Call on His Name. Let the Light of His Love break through the darkness and remove the heavy holiday burdens. He is the Prince of Peace. Not world peace but our personal peace! Jesus be my peace today! Let me feel the Light of Your Love. Chase away the darkness as I bask in Your Light and new life!

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NLT) For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

An Open Conversation

an-open-coversation

Psalm 27:7-8 (NLT) Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

My husband loves football. It is his favorite “season” of the year. For many years, our family enjoyed season tickets to the local hometown team collegiate games. He loves his team and follows them passionately. Not a man of many hobbies, when attending the events he is all business. Never should the words be uttered, “It’s just a game.” I enjoy the games but must admit there are times when I have done some online shopping, social media and texting with friends rather than really paying attention to the game and the score. One thing that I have noticed over the many years of football and my husband is that in the noisy stadium with the crazed crowd, blaring band, bright lights and gridiron action IS NOT the time to attempt in meaningful conversation. Important talks are not to be held in such an environment. Personal and intimate communication is not engaged while yelling over the drunk guy behind you if you know what I mean. My husband is not giving me his full attention and for me to assume that he is would be ridiculous. If I would like to spend quality time with my husband and engage in meaningful conversation and connect with him, it will be one on one without distractions. It will be a time set aside when we can talk one on one without other people around or “things” to do. We must put down our cellphones, turn off the television and stop looking around to really hear each other. I believe most people have the talking part of a conversation down pat especially women. It is the listening part that challenges so many. To humble ourselves and even our opinion to open one’s heart and mind to carefully consider and hear what the other person is saying to us.

Many years ago, I set out on a journey to hear the Voice of God. I wanted to go beyond what the Word of God offered, engage more than with just His Spirit, but I desired to actually listen for His Voice when He speaks directly to me. I know this will blow some of you away at my deep devotion and complete commitment to this but I set my alarm for fifteen minutes earlier than before. That’s right a whopping whole fifteen minutes for the Lord to expand my knowledge, deepen my understanding and share all of His Many Secrets with me.

We pray to the Lord for things the majority of time. Maturity in Christ may even produce thankfulness that begins to manifest in our prayer time. To stop there is not enough, when God offers us so much more. I love Psalm 27:8, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk WITH me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming!’” God is used to people talking about Him. Jesus is used to people talking TO Him. But the Holy Spirit within us connects with the Lord of Lords when a believer decides to talk with Him instead.

John 10:3-5 (NLT) The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

God speaks to His People. Jesus is speaking to us today. Why can’t I hear the Voice of God clearly? Well, do you listen? We pour our hearts out to the Lord but how many times are you willing to sit in silence until He answers? I believe that God has important details to share with us but most often His People are too busy to stop and listen or uncomfortable with the silence that proceeds it. We must know, recognize and follow the Voice of the Lord. It must be familiar to us in order to distinguish between a truth and a lie. Do you recognize when God is speaking to you? Do you know His Voice? This is an important part of our relationship with the Lord. God speaks to His People. Jesus calls out to us each day. We call out, cry out and speak out to Him. We must wait for Him to respond. He is waiting for us to listen.

I Kings 19:11-13 (NLT) “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

To set the scene for those who may be unfamiliar, Elijah had made fools of the prophets of Baal. The prophets were all killed and Jezebel was furious. She threatened to kill Elijah so he ran to hide. There is more to the story that I encourage you to read but the underlying truth at this point in the story is that Elijah had been driven into fear and hiding by the lie of the enemy. He is hiding in a cave on a mountain. The Lord tells him to “go out and stand before me on the mountain.” So he does and it is there Elijah encounters a windstorm, avalanche, earthquake and fire falling from the sky and then after all hell breaks loose around him…he hears it. The still small voice that can only be the Lord. The gentle whisper that brings new life to us. When Elijah heard God’s Voice, he went out and stood at the entrance of the cave to have a personal and intimate conversation with the Most High God.

Problems, troubles and trauma cause us to seek the Lord and even cry out to Him. However, it is in our complete and utter failure that most of us will actually listen to what God is saying to us. We must run out of options and opportunities before fully relinquishing the controls of our life to His Capable Hands. We lie to ourselves and God by implying a complete turnover of our life to His Care. Only to discover, that our hands are firmly attached to the wheel. So when all hell breaks loose in our life and the atmosphere around us explodes, suddenly we become speechless in our own fear and doubt. We stop fighting and become resolved to our situation.

When I was about eight years old, there was a “bully” at school who used to “threaten” to kiss me. I was appalled at the thought of it. One day as I got off the bus looking back for my offender, he pointed at me and said, “Today is the day. I am going to catch you.” I jumped off the bus and ran all the way home never looking back. Bursting through the door, my mom was immediately concerned. As I began to tell her of my awful ordeal, a smile crept across her face. I grew even more frustrated. When I ran out of words and breath, my mom in all her infinite wisdom told me exactly what I should do. “Turn around and kiss him first.” WHAT?!? I was outraged. I think God our Father does the same thing for us. He waits. The Lord waits until His Children finally come to Him pouring out all their heart, using all their words down to their very last breath. Then He whispers love and truth to them, now that they are ready to listen.

Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT) “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Reading Matthew 7, have you ever wondered what might be waiting on the other side of the door prayer is knocking on? I know one might assume it is that very thing for which we are asking or praying but I don’t think so any more. God promises that for those who keep knocking that the door will be opened. Everyone who seeks will find. Keep knocking. Everyone who asks will receive. But what? I don’t believe the answer to every prayer and petition is “yes” so that invalidates the possibility that it is always what I want or think I need. Behind the door on which prayer knocks is this…

Revelation 3:20 (NLT) “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

We knock on God’s Door to meet our immediate need, heal a disease, solve a problem, ease our minds, fill our hearts, and every other dream and desire that comes along when all along Jesus is on the other side just waiting for an invitation to enter an open conversation. We are given the will to choose whether or not to engage in a meaningful and heartfelt relationship with Jesus Christ. He desires a friendship not acquaintance with us. Friends talk about everything. Communicate often. Spend time together regularly. Listen to each other. Help one another. The Lord desires to communicate with you today. He is talking to me. Are we listening?

Psalm 95:6-7 (NLT) Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today!

It is up to me the amount of attention I give to the relationships in my life. I give my job about 8 or 9 hours a day and in exchange I get a paycheck each month. This is the terms of our relationship. I have five children – two live at home so I communicate with them daily and effortlessly because they live in my presence. It is a bit more of a challenge to keep up with the others who are busy adulting. We must all put forth an effort to communicate and build our relationship apart. I have some close friends who I speak to just about every day through texting or calling. My besties, if you will, and I have ongoing conversations that stop today and may resume right where we left off the day after tomorrow when things slow down. My husband is my life partner. He is my soul mate on the earth. I talk to him every single day. I listen to what he says and even what he doesn’t say directly because I love him, care for him and am his helper in life. We spend time each day talking and listening to maintain our marriage and uphold our covenant. This is the kind of relationship that the Lord desires with you and me. An intimate and ongoing conversation that contains both talking and listening on both our parts. He is a good listener. If you think about it, people tend to do all the talking. We must become good listeners, too.

To be a good listener requires a few things. We must stop talking. We must stop thinking about our response and concentrate on the one speaking. We must believe that they have something worth hearing to invest our time, energy and concentration. We must remove all distractions. Prayer is communication with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We must learn to communicate effectively and listen for His Voice. Do you hear the Lord saying in your heart today, “Come and talk with me!” It will be a still small voice or gentle whisper that only the one who know His Voice will hear and follow. He desires to spend quality time with you His Beloved today. How will you respond?

John 5:24-25 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live.”