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building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Prayer”

One Thing is Needed

Do you remember that simple prayer that you were taught as a young child? Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray to God my soul to take. Seems rather odd today, doesn’t it? But back in the day, children would die in sleep. Epidemics, malnutrition, etc would not allow for a long life. You just didn’t know if you would wake up in the morning regardless of the age of the one praying.

Back in the day, women would die during childbirth. Back in the day, life was short with no guarantees of tomorrow. I think we have forgotten how risky life really is. Medicine is keeping us alive longer. We say someone who has died in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s or 70’s how young they were – taken in their prime. However, not too long ago, it was the norm. Prosperity has brought a new perspective. We believe we’ll live forever. At least, that’s my perception of today’s thinking. But we just don’t know how long we have on this earth. God teaches us through His Word to number our days; to make each day count.

One thing has been made clear to me over these first weeks of this year; prayer is foundation for a successful year. We might not know what this year will bring, but prayer puts us in the right place to hear from God to make this year successful in His sight. We don’t know how many of these years we have left, but we do know that God has a work designed just for you and for me. The only way to succeed at this thing is to be on the same page as Him. He designed the page, He holds the pen. He has a story to write through us, but do we know it unless we sit with Him in prayer?

I struggle with this thing called prayer. It’s not that I don’t pray. I do – every day and often throughout the day. What I struggle with is not the mechanics of prayer but the heart of prayer – being sensitive to the Holy Spirit as I pray. The Holy Spirit is our guide. He is our intercessor between us and God. God speaks to us through that still, quiet voice which is the Holy Spirit whispering the words of God into our spirit. The trouble is the quietness of prayer – being still in His presence in order to hear Him.

This week, I listened to Jim Cymbala’s teaching on My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer. This teaching reminded me how devoted he and his church are to prayer. The Tuesday night prayer meetings are legendary. In his teaching, he noted a response from a Korean about the state of the church in Korea. The Korean was asked why the church is growing so rapidly in that place and the Korean noted that the American church relies on programs; the Koreans rely on prayer. That’s significant.

In the original gathering of the disciples in the upper room after Jesus ascended, prayer was the underpinning of the movement. It all started as the Holy Spirit fell upon that room when the disciples were praying. The only way to bring revival in this land is to lay the foundation of prayer to bring the movement into this season. Churches have fallen away from “prayer meetings” as it was called back in the day. Very few feel the need to attend such gatherings, but how much more is it needed today?

I am inclined to believe there are certain things that are done only by way of prayer. God isn’t going to move big in our lives unless we ask for Him to do so – that we devote our time to persistent prayer for God to do big things – not because we’re so great, but because He is and He will get the glory for it.

A.W. Tozer said “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” When we have a small view of God, we have small prayers. When we believe in a big God who is bigger than the biggest hurdle we face, God can do greater things in us and through us.

We have heard that prayer changes things. It can shake the heavens. It can rock the earth and cause prison doors to fly open and chains to be broken. It can heal the sick and cause the blind to see. All these things will bring glory to God when we bring it before our Father in heaven. Jesus said that we have not because we ask not. We have to be before Him persistently until we hear the answer – yes, no, or not yet. Don’t give up on that prayer that you’re offering today. Continue to circle it until God sends the “rain.” If you believe in one prayer is the will of the Father, then be sure to pray it with passion that will move God to act on your behalf.

These are the things I am learning – it may take a lifetime to learn, but God knows the length of my days. God is faithful to fulfill everything He has started in me. Let’s not waste another day without going before the Father to bring His will to earth.

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9b-12

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Singing a New Song

Last Sunday, Christmas Eve, we sang a few Christmas songs during our worship time. It wasn’t the traditional carols. Yes, “Go tell it” was one of them, but it was a different version. Then there were a couple of songs that I couldn’t name for you, much less sing well because I was unfamiliar with the tune. They were different and upbeat – even had a rap song thrown in for good measure. However, I enjoyed them.

Do you get tired of singing the old songs over and over? Does your worship go routine when the old songs are sung? Do we pay attention to the words any longer when it becomes routine? Is our worship affected by routine? I can imagine God saying – “sing me something new” – “feel something different in the newness for me.”

Routine. Rut. Same ol’ same ol’. I think my own routines get the best of me at times. I can imagine that God wants something different for us as well. Routines will kill the Holy Spirit’s movement. Routine is just a mind-numbing exercise. It’s hard to get excited about routines. Yes, I do find some comfort in routines, but it’s when it wears down to a rut that it becomes the monotony of life and just going through the motions.

December 1st, I started the Draw the Circle, 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson. Yesterday’s reading (Day 29) gave me a bit of a pause. It was all about getting out of the routine. The author wrote this profound statement “sacred routines become empty rituals if we do them out of left-brain memory instead of right-brain imagination.” I am good at left-brain work. It’s the creativity that I have a problem with, but I can see that creativity is something God put in us so that we can use it to worship Him more effectively. After all, wouldn’t the Creator give us that same desire to create – we are made in His own image, right?

If you have been following my blog for any time, you may have noticed that for the last year I have been posting on Thursdays. Before that I posted on Wednesdays. Since I started a new job two months ago, I realized that I need to move the day again. I can no longer write in the mornings when I have to be at work at 8 o’clock. This work isn’t working for me! So here I sit on a Saturday morning typing away. This is my right-brain activity for the day! I might throw in another creative outlet at some point as well at some other point in the week, but for now this is what works. Change is a good thing, right?

Mark Batterson noted a response to one of his sermons about prayer from someone in the audience concerning his continual prayer out of his knowledge of the human body. The responder had a degree in biology and started to thank God for all the interactions that occur in the body. He wrote “Thank You for mitochondria, which right now are creating ATP. Thank You for ATP. Thank You for glycolysis. Thank You for pyruvate.” This may not hit you as it hit me, but these are the things I am currently learning through my interest in healthy living.

This responder had a lot more knowledge than I do and he went on to other areas of the body and in nature as well. He was thanking God for the complete work that is going on in our bodies that we have no control over but by His hands we live and breathe and function without a single thought on our own. He did it. He sustains us even when we don’t even think about it. It’s just amazing what God has done for us. It’s His breath in our lungs. It’s His handiwork in our bodies. It’s all Him.

We can get in our routines and not even think about it. But how much more we would get out of life when we contemplate every aspect of our lives are in the palm of God’s hands. How much more we would worship Him when we realize how great and majestic He is and the work that He has done in us and through us. It’s time for a little creativity in our worship and in our prayer lives too. It’s time to get out of our routines and try something new. Are you with me in this?

We are starting a new year in just a few hours. Let’s make it a goal to try something different this year. Let’s tap into our creative imagination and watch what God can do in the midst of it. You up for it? Let me know what you come up with and how God responds to you in that newness. Happy New Year!

Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
Psalm 96:1-4

A New Rhythm

We had a rather nasty storm roll through our area last week causing high wind. My yard was covered in pine cones and sticks. This past Sunday was gorgeous, and I decided to enjoy the afternoon picking up sticks (and pine cones). The morning was spent in church, and I also listened to another service on line. I was ready to digest the messages I heard. Something about activity helps me to process information as well as gives me head space for the Holy Spirit to speak.

While I was outside doing my thing, there were a couple of teenagers who walked by. I heard them coming when they turned the corner to come down my street. They had some type of music playing (loudly) while they walked. As they walked by, I thought it would be cool to have a soundtrack playing as we walked through our lives. What would my soundtrack be? The theme from Rocky? An Enya tune (is she still around)? Something peppy? Or something low key? Or something dramatic with anticipation for the moment? As I was contemplating that thought, my mind drifted into the messages I heard.

On Saturday, I listened to a speaker (Lisa Nichols) who gave a very inspirational talk concerning her book Abundance Now. She had a couple of points that were worth writing down and remembering. In her teen years, Lisa told a story how her grandmother encouraged her before a big swim meet. The meet was going to be an impossible feat as she was competing in an older age class. Her grandmother told her “winners never quit, and quitters never win; and she was not a quitter.”

At the start of the race, Lisa began to repeat “Winners never quit, quitters never win;” over and over. It became her cadence for her strokes. When she flipped for her turn, she saw her close competitor, but she thought they were in competition for dead last. When she finally touched the wall, she was alone – no one was even close to finishing beside her. She had out swum everyone in the heat and set a national record. That saying became the “soundtrack” that played throughout the tough times in her life. I must admit I was a bit envious of Lisa’s story. It’s powerful with lots of things to contemplate.

For the last week or so, I have been pondering my vision or my goals for my life. I don’t seem to have anything really out there to strive for. I don’t really have something I want to accomplish before I die. Sure, I want to have a great legacy; to mark my time here on earth. But I have no clue what I should do for God’s Kingdom. These thoughts led to the message from Sunday morning. That message was “shameless audacity” for praying bold prayers. The pastor said, “The size of your prayers shows the size of your God.”

Hmmm, my prayers seem to be rather anemic right now. I have had a few times in my life where I have prayed specifically for God to act and He did. But this is not a general characteristic of my prayer life. I throw out generalities and ask God to handle things (in His will). If I want God to act in a BIG way, then I have to ask persistently and ask them boldly for His intervention. The pastor mentioned he believed that God likes for us to ask for BIG things – it actually honors Him when we believe He can do what we ask of Him. Prayers shouldn’t be a formality, but a heart turned toward Him – seeking Him HARD! Pursuing Him with shameless audacity.

Lisa didn’t know she had a national title in her, but her grandmother knew of her potential. God knows our potential as well. He knows what He has put in us. But we have to be willing to get in the water and start making the waves by our strokes. We have to be in bold prayer to ask God to move mightily in us and through us. We need to listen to the right soundtrack and make sure we have people in our corner who will cheer us on. There is a point of intersection where our desires and His Kingdom come together.

Swimmers have racing lanes. We each run our own race. God didn’t give everyone the same vision. We all have an individual lane marked out for us. But we’ll never get to the wall if we quit now. I want to finish well, and break all the barriers to a fruitful life. Winners never quit, and our victory has already been won! Thank you, Jesus! Honor God with bold requests, and watch Him do amazing things!

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)

Suffering Through

I sprained my ankle last week. It was the same ankle that I broke eighteen years ago this month. When I had my injury back then I didn’t go to the emergency room when it happened. I thought everything would be better the next day. I was wrong. I suffered greatly through the night. Last week, I revisited my previous injury. I thought about what I had suffered back then and the agony of waiting until the next morning. Through that night, I couldn’t do anything but crawl around my apartment to get from one point to another. When I made it to my bedroom, I stayed there the rest of the night. The ice didn’t last long; the pain medication wasn’t available yet, so there I laid there suffering on my bed until my parents arrived at lunchtime the next day. This time it wasn’t that bad.

I have had a few occasions in my life where I have dealt with major pain. When I was in my mid twenties I suffered from Rocky Mountain spotted fever. I thought I was going to die. The pain was intense and affected every single bone and joint. I had a hysterectomy ten years ago this month (July is a bad month for me!). I thought that pain was going to kill me as well. The morphine I was given didn’t touch the pain. After the first day, I didn’t even press the magical button because I knew the medication wouldn’t give me any relief. It’s been a long time since I have dealt with the throbbing pain of a hurt body. My ankle last week was not nearly as extreme as the RMSF or the hysterectomy or the first ankle injury. This was a reminder for me that I am very fortunate that I don’t live with pain and suffering on a constant basis. And also Jesus suffered so much more than I could ever imagine.

I don’t know why we have to suffer as we do except we live in a broken world. There will always be pain and suffering until Jesus comes back. When Jesus came to earth, He came to heal the sick; to heal the brokenhearted. I had a few days of minor suffering in comparison to the pain Jesus experienced – there is no comparison. I endured my pain for my body to heal physically. But Jesus endured the pain for the entire world to be healed physically, mentally and spiritually. Sin broke the world. Sin brought sickness and death. When sin broke us, God had to send a way to repair the brokenness in us. God loved us so much that He didn’t want to leave us in this broken state. Jesus was the only one who could endure the pain and suffering for us to fix us.

When we are in the middle of pain and suffering, we can come confidently to our Lord and Savior who endured the cross for us. He knows what we are enduring. If we draw near to Him, He will always draw near to us. We can ask Him to take it from us. His answer may come as “yes, not now or no.” We ask with faith in that He hears and will answer in His way. We endure with patience and let the work be finished in us for His glory. We can come to Jesus in faith and believe He answers when we call on Him. Believe that He hears but also believe He loves us with such love that He will not leave us alone in the pain. He longs to hear our voice crying out to Him and will dry our tears with His tender touch. Believe in His love even if the answer is no. There is a purpose that needs to be served in our present sufferings. If you are ready to be healed, in every regard (physically, mentally and spiritually) ask.

My ankle is better with prayer and ice! But my soul is content in His tender embrace.

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. Psalm 6:2-4

My Identity Crisis

It’s been almost eight years ago when I found out my medical identity was stolen. It didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time. The insurance denied the claims and everything seemed to be fine. Until the day I went to get my driver’s license renewed and found out it was suspended because of my failure to complete the rehabilitation issued by the courts. Uh? I was floored and stumbled out to the parking lot wondering what had gone so wrong? The lady’s identity became wrapped up in mine. Since then, I have dealt with her problems on my credit report, and the report that goes to auto insurance companies, which is separate – who knew? For years I have been dealing with higher and higher auto insurance premiums and wondered if insurance could go up that fast. When I switched insurance companies, the insurance man pointed to the wrecks in unknown cars that were linked to my account. It just never ends.

This woman has major problems; drugs and/or alcohol, medical issues, and just major sin issues. For some reason this woman is tied to me. What’s the purpose behind it? I don’t know yet. I don’t know how this story will end. Good hasn’t come of it yet, but it will. God says He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purpose (my paraphrase Romans 8:28). I believe those words so I know there is a greater purpose than these little irritants that keep popping up over and over. Satan likes to use these little irritants to keep me off-balance or to distract me from my purpose. Every time I take a step of faith, the credit report will come back with issues or the renewal of policies/licenses, something tied to this woman will impact in a negative way. All I can do right now, is clean up the mess and pray for the woman. Satan will one day quit using this woman, and she will be healed and saved from the destruction Satan planned for her. Jesus’ plans are much greater for her, and I am praying she one day understands this truth.

I am not writing this to show my prayer fortitude or raise a righteous flag. I am far from perfect. At one point in my life, I could have been in a complete mess like this woman. But God saved me from the destructive path of Satan. Satan planned to kill me, but Jesus came to give me a new life. My character is being built through the trials so that I can grow into the woman of God I am meant to be. It’s the little irritants that help me to have the right perspective. It’s by God’s grace I have been set free. I no longer have an identity crisis. I know who I am and whose I am. Yes, I still suffer from someone else’s sin. But it’s with grace that I take her suffering to the cross and ask for her suffering to end. God has this under control. I need not worry about what could be in my circumstances. I am securely in the palm of His hands. Whatever is allowed, I will endure it for His glory. My character is being renewed day by day. One day, I will see the goodness that the Lord has in store. My character witness will be Jesus Himself standing up for me either here on earth or in heaven one day. Good will come out of this! One day.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Preparation

On Memorial Day, I was outside cleaning up around my house and made a few observations as I was cleaning up weeds. A few years ago (maybe ten years or so), I removed all the grass and put in mulch on one side of my house. It was a shady area. There were a couple of trees on my side of the property line and two large cedar trees on my neighbor’s side. As the years went along, the trees got really big and became a real problem for me. It kept the siding on the house from getting sunshine which led to mold and mildew being a real nuisance.

I have issues concerning the trees around my house. My house was struck by lightning when I first moved in. It hit one of the trees on that side of the house and ricocheted to my house. I have been wanting all the trees down since then. I finally got the trees down on my side about three years ago. So what do I do about my neighbor’s trees? Well, I prayed for God to remove them. I know, trivial things to pray about, but I prayed anyway. In hindsight, it was a really good thing for me to cut my trees down because God answered my prayer in a very big way.

In April, 2011, a tornado made its way through my city and across my neighborhood. Those two cedar trees were laid down perfectly between my house and my neighbor’s. If the other trees had been there, they might have ended up on top of my house (right where I would have been kneeling in my closet). I believe God prompted me to get those trees taken down. I even had done some major work on my house the year before and trust that too was in preparation for the storm to come. This was not how I expected God to answer my prayer for my tree problem. But He had prepared me in a large way for the storm to come. I had done the work I knew to do in advance of what God was going to do.

I see this too as a metaphor for spiritual storms. There are things I need to be doing in order to be prepared for the storms that will come in my life. I need to be strong in the Word. I need to be on my knees praying diligently for the things I know to be praying for. There are many preparations before the storms arrive, and they will come.

As I was pulling weeds on Memorial Day, I was reminded of my prayer. I prayed for the removal of the trees and now I have weeds. Nothing had grown on that side of the house for years, but now that it’s sunny and weeds flourish. The house is no longer moldy and mildewed, but the paint is fading fast. Whether it is sunny or shady, there are always issues to deal with. Either way, there is work to do. Time spent in preparation is essential to be ready for whatever storm comes my way.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-34

Expectation

Have you ever encountered God’s word with a “duh – I knew that” moment? I get that all the time. It happened again when I was reading the passage about the church praying while Peter was in jail. The angel of the Lord appeared in the cell with Peter. Peter was sound asleep, even though he was probably slated for execution in the next day or two. Ah, to have that kind of peace! Meanwhile, the church is in a house praying – not sure what they were praying but they were praying nonetheless. Were they praying for Peter’s release? Were they praying for protection for him? Just what were they praying? Scripture is silent about the prayer. After the angel supernaturally freed Peter, Peter shows up on the doorstep of the house where the church was praying. The one who went to the door was overjoyed to hear Peter’s voice on the other side of the closed-door. She was so excited she forgot to open the door for him. Was she seeing the answered prayer right in front of her?

How many times have I prayed specifically for things to occur, and I totally miss the answer? Or how many times have a prayed not really expecting God to answer my prayers? Why then do I even pray? If I am not expecting God to answer, why even go through the motions? Do I believe God hears me? Do I have such small faith that I just don’t think He’ll come through for me? These are the questions I have been pondering since I’ve read about Peter’s release (found in Acts 12:1-18). I was reading this passage the day after I heard a sermon on Expectations. Jesus couldn’t do any miracles in His hometown of Nazareth because of their lack of faith. I realized I have been praying for specific things with little faith. I don’t really expect Jesus to come through for me. I don’t know why. He has been faithful in the past, but I am not expecting much in the future.

Oh, I believe Jesus can do all things. I believe nothing is impossible for God. But obviously I don’t think the prayers I have been praying will amount to anything. I am not anticipating the great things God is capable of or else I would be excited about the future. I would be watching with anticipation, like a child anticipating Christmas. The countdown is on for the fulfillment of the promise; just like the month before Christmas and the child is counting the days. I guess it’s because the future is “out there” with no end in sight. The faith comes in when there is no sight of the end. How long will I have to wait until the promise?

Regardless, my prayers need the expectant attitude. The anticipation of what is to come. God is good all the time. He knows where we are and what we are waiting on. He is also looking in our hearts to see the smallest of seeds of hope and faith. Are they growing or are thy withering? How long will they grow or how long will it take for them to start to die? For those who endure, the promises of blessings will come. If there are no blessings, then it’s not the end. Pray unceasing and with expectation until the blessing comes. God is faithful to fulfill all He has promised! Praise God now for what He is going to do!

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:22-23

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