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Archive for the tag “Persist until success”

Rain and Frogs

After hearing the messages from last week’s Code Orange Revival from Elevation Church, I want to reflect a bit on what I heard. As I sit here at my table this early morning, I hear the rain coming down. Levi Lesko said that rain was a symbol of God’s blessing. Rain is a precious commodity especially in a dry season. Elijah prayed for a drought because of the sinful condition of the nation of Israel. And God sent a drought for three and half years. At the end of the drought, Elijah sent for the people to gather at Mount Carmel to see the One true God. The message is found in 1 Kings 18:20-46.

The people watched as Elijah dug a trench around the altar that he repaired. The people were told to fill four large jars with water. Where did they get the water? Did they go to the sea to get it? Or did they use what they had brought with them? Whether they had to use what they had or they had to go a distance to find water, it cost them something to see a miracle happen. Elijah poured out the water jars on the altar and then asked the people to fill them a second time; then a third time. The water was running over the altar and into the trench. Elijah prayed and fire fell down on the altar and licked up every drop of that precious commodity.

The story didn’t end there. Drought was still on the land. Before there was a cloud formed, Elijah told the King Ahab to “go, eat and drink for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” Elijah went to the top of the mountain and prayed. Seven times he asked his servant to go and see if there was anything on the horizon. The seventh time the servant reported a small cloud rose from the sea. And with that small cloud, a blessing of rain came.

Elijah was persistent in praying. He continued in his efforts until a small cloud formed. He heard the sound of rain before the cloud appeared; actually before he started to pray. He knew that God would hear his prayer and knew that God would answer his prayer; he just didn’t know how long it would take. He kept praying until he received the answer. Persistence and belief go hand in hand to receive those answered prayers.

John Gray said that the sound of heaven brings things together for miracles to happen. God’s voice spoke creation into existence. Particles come together to form the earth and everything in it. God spoke and light separated darkness. The sound from heaven begins the process. Sometimes we just don’t hear the sound; sometimes we are too busy to hear the voice of God speak. But sometimes God sends a burning bush to get our attention.

Christine Caine spoke about the frog plague found in Exodus 8:1-14. God sent plagues on the land of Egypt in order to release Israel from the bondage of slavery. Moses was his instrument that He used to bring about these miracles. Dharius Daniels mentioned that the people cried out to God; God spoke to Moses. But the people didn’t know God was working on the problem. The people may have thought God didn’t hear their prayers cause nothing seemed to change. They were still in slavery, yet God was working on Moses. Moses had a few doubts about his ability to handle this God-sized task. We are never adequate for God-sized tasks; but God is, and He asks the most unlikely people to do the job so that He gets the glory.

So the frogs came and the people of Egypt had frogs everywhere – in their houses, in their kitchens, in their bedrooms and even in their beds. Yuck! Can you imagine? Pharaoh summons Moses to pray to remove the frogs. Moses told him to set the time of the removal. Pharaoh said tomorrow. God could have removed them immediately, but Pharaoh chose another night with the problem. When the prayer was answered, the people were left with the consequences of the plague. The people had to remove the dead frogs from their houses. The stench filled the air.

The plague of frogs is a bit like our sins. Sin is a stench to God. The only way we can remove the stench is to seek forgiveness from God. But we have to do it today, not tomorrow. Sin is removed immediately upon forgiveness, but we have to deal with the consequences of our sins. Whatever is causing our distress, our sin or someone else’s; when we cry out to God, He will hear our cries. An answer is coming but sometimes it may take a while to see the results. God may be dealing with another Moses to answer our prayers. In the meantime, God is working on our hearts.

Persistence and belief in our gracious Father brings about a change in our hearts not a circumstance, but ultimately God will answer according to His time and in His way. God will send the rain, and the dry season will end. Wait for it. Persist and believe!

Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Hebrews 10:22-23 (NLT)

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Who Needs a Miracle?

Three sermons converged this week to give me a greater sense of what God is doing in us every day. Pastor Jimmy Carroll at my home church is in the Miracles of Jesus series. Pastor James MacDonald at Harvest Bible Chapel is working through Prayer Breakthroughs sermon series. Pastor Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church is asking the question in his series “Who Needs God.” All of these messages seemed to come together this week because I need a miracle.

I have had a few occasions when I have seen God work a miracle in my circumstance, but it’s been a long time since I have recognized His work. After listening to my Pastor on Sunday, I had the opportunity to pray for someone who needed a miracle for his son. I was able to encourage him with a few points from the sermon and offer a prayer for healing. One of Pastor Jimmy’s points from his sermon was that “it’s always in God’s power to heal but not always in God’s purpose to heal.” Sometimes there is a work that needs to be done in us before the healing takes place. However, healing may not be in God’s plan – at least on earth, healing will take place in heaven regardless of what happens here on earth. When we are in His presence, we will be whole. Praise the Lord!

Pastor James made the point that a breakthrough prayer needs persistence. I have heard over the years that we are to persist in prayer until we have an answer from God. In the Greatest Salesman in the World, the author Og Mandino wrote we are to persist until we succeed. Sometimes we fail to see an answer so we quit before the breakthrough. Pastor James had a point as well to share on persistence. “People who persist in prayer don’t lose heart – people who lose heart don’t persist in prayer.” Sometimes the delay in an answer is to fix the Pray-er; the Pray-er needs a breakthrough before we see the answer. Another point Pastor James made was this: “As I pray, God is making me spiritually fit to receive what He is already willing to do.”

Pastor Andy tells us that sometimes our views of God don’t mature as we age. We may have grown up knowing about God, but as we get older that view doesn’t change. When we face adult problems, our childhood image doesn’t fit our adult problem. Many walk away from the faith because the expectations were not met. We have that image of a “genie” god who will grant our wishes. When God doesn’t come through, we get disillusioned and walk away. God’s business is maturing disciples. He is into building our faith muscles. It’s okay to start out with little faith; but at some point, it has to mature. We have to grow up spiritually just as we grow up physically.

Luke 18 gives an account of one of Jesus’ stories about the persistent widow. Pastor James points out that the scenario is a worst case problem – a widow, a jerk for a judge and a plea for justice. It’s through persistence that the widow gets the judgment; not because of the righteousness of the judge, but because of her persistence. She kept going to the judge most likely with more passion each time she returned. The judge decided to grant her the request. He realized she would not give up – she wasn’t going to wear out, he was.

God is looking for faithfulness, but He is also looking for emotion. When we are moved, He is moved. It’s our heart that needs the breakthrough. Praying is the vehicle to get us there. Pastor James last point concerned the question Jesus asked at the end of the parable: “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” We are seeking something from Him; He is seeking something from us.

Persist until faith becomes sight. As I learn these lessons, I have opportunities to pray for someone else. I get the opportunity to see the miracle to happen for someone else. I think that’s what it’s all about. When we pray for others, we get the miracle too. And we learn a greater lesson about God; He is bigger than we can imagine, and He gives us a glimpse of Himself in the answer.

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour. Matthew 8:10, 13

The Butterfly

I am feeling a bit uninspired lately. I am in between projects with no motivation to move onto something new. You ever feel that way? I know there are things I should be doing. There are multiple projects around my house that I could be doing. But nothing seems to be creating an interest for me. In the meantime, I’m thinking.

Andy Andrews threw down a challenge a few weeks ago that has me contemplating my future. He asked his blog readers to come up with a personal mission statement. Sounded like a good idea at the time, but as I read over his questions to consider for my mission statement, the more I withdrew from pressing into the project. I got overwhelmed with the task. I started then stopped.

Andy tells of the “butterfly effect” that what we do or don’t do matters. Each person creates a ripple effect that affects generations with the things done or not done. An example he gives is a person winning a noble prize for an agriculture breakthrough that changed crop outputs. That person won the prize, but really it could have gone to the one who inspired the winner to go into the field in the first place. Andy went on to tell how the winner was ultimately connected to George Washington Carver who began the whole process with all he did for agriculture progress. Each person contributed a small piece of the pie all the way back to Carver through the ripple or butterfly effect. Each person had an impact on another person through their actions even though they didn’t know it at the time. What we do or don’t do matters.

Andy gave me another thought about intention. Intention doesn’t do anything but convince the thinker they are doing something – their intention was good. But their follow through didn’t make it into an action. I am a good thinker, but my follow through has a lot to be desired. I can think of all the things I should be doing, but until I actually do something, intention gets me nowhere. There is no prize for intention.

In The Greatest Salesman in the World (Og Madino), there is a sentence in this month’s reflection that has been drawing my attention (pg 64). “The prizes of life are at the end of each journey, not near the beginning; and it is not given to me to know how many steps are necessary in order to reach my goal.” We are told “to persist until we succeed.” My pastor keeps telling our Church Body to take the next step. I am reminded that if I am still breathing, then there will always be a next step to take. But the thing is we have to know where we’re going in order to get there; hence, why we need a personal mission statement.

The personal mission statement sets boundaries for the future. We understand who we are, what inspires us, who we want to become and what stamp we want to leave as our legacy – ultimately – what is the butterfly effect for our lives. It’s the vision we want to cast for the future. It helps define our next steps and keeps us on the right path to get to our destination. It helps with making decisions that will lead us where we want to go without getting off course.

Andy got me thinking; but I haven’t come to the conclusion. I haven’t finalized the mission statement. I got stuck in the big picture. I know what I should be doing, but I haven’t found the right motivation to do it. I haven’t been given a next step to move forward. I am stuck in the process of thinking. Sometimes we just need help getting unstuck. Sometimes mud floods the road, and we can’t move forward without a little help. It’s not bad to ask for a little help.

Actually, involving others in our lives is a very good thing. It takes a willingness to open up and share where we are. But involving the right people to speak into our lives is the key. Just as we all need a personal mission statement, we all need a team of people as our “board” members like a corporation would have to evaluate company progress and make course corrections to stay on mission.

I need to get these things in place. Thinking about it won’t get it done, but it is essential in the process. To go forward, I need to fix my eyes on the prize, get my intentions and my actions working together and just do it. My new word is PERSIST until I am done with this life. Do you feel the wind shifting? The butterfly will take flight.

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. Philippians 3:13b-16 NLT

Persist with Joy!

So the message this past weekend was to count it all joy. All the struggles, trials and tribulations are for a reason. God wants to take us from Point A to B – from where we are to where we need to be. He is developing in us a greater faith. Faith always has to be put to the test. Heaven is for the faith-filled believers; the ones who endured to the end. We never like to go through the storms in life. We are so anxious to get out of them before we learn the lessons. But Book of James tells us to stay the course and count it as joy. The testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:3-4).

In my readings this past week, I learned of the Wright Brothers tenacity. I read of the struggles in Auschwitz through Viktor E. Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning. And in The Greatest Salesman in the World, I am contemplating “persist until you succeed.” The theme this week is persistence or perseverance. You never know when the next step will lead you to the promise. It’s always right before you. The trouble is we give up before we find the answer. It’s always just around the bend.

I was intrigued by the Wright brothers’ determination to fly. It was all they thought about. They persisted until they succeeded. They went through many years of tweaking their design until it proved right through all their experiments. Time after time, they focused on getting it right. If this worked this time, how can it be made better for the next version? During that same time, many others tried to develop plans for an airplane. Some were close, but they weren’t close enough; they never sustained flight. The Wright brothers focused on the birds. They saw how a bird used their wings to fly. The brothers worked their designs in accordance to how nature works, and the airplane came to be in a very simplistic manner.

Viktor E. Frankel’s book gives his account of the struggles behind the walls of the concentration camp. As I was reading about his fight to live, I wondered if the lucky ones were the ones who were taken to the gas chamber right away. They didn’t have to endure the harshness and horrendous circumstances in the camp. In his account, Viktor wrote about the ones who lost hope and gave up. They died right before liberation came. Viktor lived for three years behind those walls; barely surviving on very little food – a small bit of bread and watery “soup” each day. They worked in snow and ice with no gloves or coats to keep them warm. Some had shoes with no laces or no shoes at all. I am reminded of the depravity of man when man has no soul. But Viktor survived; he made it to the end of the war and saw liberation day.

We are told in 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul fought the good fight; he finished his race and kept the faith until the end. Paul lived a life of testing. He endured the beatings, the shipwrecks, and various hardships. He stayed the course. After his conversion, Paul was told all that he must suffer for the sake of the Gospel. And he did it. He was the man for that hour – to get the message rolling through the known world. His tenacity brought the message to you and me. He introduced the Gospel message to the Middle East, Asia and Europe. And it spread like fire. He fought the fight so that we could keep it to ourselves. No, that’s not right. He did his work so that we could do ours.

We have our own battles to fight. We have our own hour to shine for Jesus. Our faith needs to be pure. It has to be tested and made sure. Like the refiners fire, the dross needs to be removed so that our faith is purified. When we suffer, we actually identify with Jesus. He took on our sin and shame and endured the cross for us. He suffered for us. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we too have to suffer in this life. It will either draw us closer to Him or it will drive us away. This is the testing of our “soils” to see if we have good soil or the word was sown in rocky soil; when persecution comes, we fall away. Faith has to be sifted. The rocks have to be removed. It’s the only way to know for sure where we stand. When we endure until the end, we succeed in obtaining the crown of righteousness. When we count our trials as joy, we keep the end in mind – the crown will one day be ours, if we persist. So, persist; it builds character in us and gives us the hope for liberation day. It’s coming – count it as joy!

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

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