Shifting to Neutral

Society teaches us that the more driven and ambitious we are, the more successful we’ll be. Although it’s important to be accountable and responsible, navigating the world as a Believer inherently means releasing a false perception of control. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Every day, we base decisions on our limited view and understanding. Then find ourselves frustrated when we learn the situation does not match our initial perception. This fallacy can also endanger our prayer lives. Just like driving a vehicle, we think we are in “Drive” and moving forward, in control. Then later down life’s road, we realize that we were actually in “Reverse” entrenched in a situation that eventually causes a setback. We may find ourselves in “Park” trying to figure out exactly what is happening. Proverbs 3:5-6 says Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

The good news is that we can always shift to neutral and ask Jesus to take the wheel. Instead of praying OUR will – for the outcome that we prefer or desire, we need to pray GOD’S will – trusting that He will move in situations for our ultimate good.  Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Even when the immediate outcome is painful or disheartening, we can trust in God’s faithfulness to keep us, even through difficult situations. We find ourselves spiritually content in every circumstance, not because of who we are, but because of who God is. He is the one who changes our mental and emotional outlook. Romans 12:2 says “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” He alone is the one who can open doors, fill any void, and meet every need, serving as the source of our joy, love, hope, peace, faith, and strength.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
-Phillipians 4:12-13

 

The Art of Letting Go

A beloved hymn begins this way:

Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

We are often guilty of clinging tightly to what is familiar, even when it is not healthy or beneficial for us. Fear of the unknown, repeating past mistakes, and other emotional considerations can weigh heavily on our hearts and minds.

In those instances, we must pray and ask God to grant us whatever we need – wisdom, strength, courage, and peace – to let go. The more a situation bothers us, the more important it is to attempt the deep spiritual work of confessing our limitations and our desire to release such situations to God.

We must remind ourselves that our every issue that concerns us is the perfect size for God to address. Every issue of our lives is God-sized. No matter how overwhelming or insignificant our problem seems to us, it is always the perfect size for God to intervene as only He can – with truth, wisdom, sovereignty, power, and love.  Psalm 46:1 says “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” No matter the history or extent, at best we only have a limited view where God has an eternal view. Isaiah 40:28 says “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom.”

Do you want to release some problems to God, but aren’t sure where to begin? Try this “prayer starter” to release a situation that troubles you:

Wise and loving God, I acknowledge that you are an all-seeing and all-knowing God. Forgive me for clinging so tightly to my issue(s) of ________. According to your word in 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” I seek freedom God and release this/these issue(s) to you in the name of Jesus. Grant me wisdom and courage to trust you more…

Respecting God’s Seasons

Our lives are composed of a series of seasons. Some seasons of life are highly anticipated and occur naturally. Other seasons of life come upon us unexpectedly, starting and ending with little warning. Seasons of our life may run the gamut from being joyful and inspiring to difficult and discouraging. We often want to control or dictate the seasons our lives apart from seeking God’s will for our lives. We are quick to make assumptions based on what makes sense to us instead of seeking God’s answers. Proverbs 12:14  says “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”

No matter how dismal or triumphant each moment, we must remember that our sovereign God has a plan for each of us. We often enter or exit seasons based on our logic and limited understanding. As we deepen our prayer lives and seek God’s face, we begin to rely on God’s timing, trusting that He will show us the timing of each season. As we mature in our understanding of God’s grace, we will begin to desire the things of God, submitting our will to His. We learn to trust in God’s will and plan, knowing that it is far superior to whatever exists in our own mental map. Ephesians 5:15-2 says “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Regardless of what each season brings, we can trust in God’s faithfulness. He is always with us. His faithfulness is not dependent on our ability. Faithfulness is simply God’s character. 2 Timothy 2:13 says “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”

I feel the winds of change blowing. The Holy Spirit is leading me to new endeavors. I thank God for each person who has encouraged me as I added to this blog weekly for 20 consecutive months. I hope that these posts have ministered to you and strengthened your prayer life. The Hebrew word for 20 is “Kaf” which is symbolized by an open hand, meaning to cover or give, open or allow.

As for me, I fully believe that God is allowing me to walk into a new season. Many dynamics and aspects of my personal life are changing, but I am excited rather than fearful because God is faithful. Psalm 136 says “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” His timing is perfect. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

I pray that the Lord continues to bless, strengthen, protect and inspire you in your own new season. I encourage you to follow the Unite in Prayer and The Devotion Cafe blogs. Both of them offer heaping helpings of inspiring, convicting soul food. Trust in God’s seasons and remember always that prayer works!

Pause and Remember

Whether it involves our health, career, family, finances, household, or another aspect of our lives, crises have one thing in common: they always happen at the most inopportune time. When faced with disheartening news, it is easy to find yourself in an emotional tailspin, wondering whether you could have somehow averted the situation. Heavy bricks of fear, stress, confusion, frustration, doubt, discouragement, and worry, build a wall of uncertainty that disrupts your prayer life at a time when you need it most.

Although a crisis may have you fixated on an uncertain future, I encourage you to return or even improve your prayer life by making an intentional effort to pause and remember. Doing so will break down that wall! Deuteronomy 4:9 says to “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—” Reflect on your personal history and testimony. Run the mental movie of your life, reminding yourself of previous dire situations that the Lord brought you through. Romans 8:37 says “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Remind yourself that the same Lord who created, delivered, rescued, healed, comforted, kept, provided for, and encouraged you in the past is the same Lord who is present with you now. Deuteronomy 31:6 says Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Remind yourself of how far God has brought you, the many creative ways that Lord sustained, elevated, and encouraged you, divinely arranging situations to ultimately benefit you, turning your weeping into joy. Psalm 30:11-12 says You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”

In our humanness, we deeply desire to be complacent. God’s focus is less on our comfort and more about our maturity. God wants us to grow in our knowledge and understanding of Him. If our lives were always smooth, we would have an inflated sense of self and miss cultivating a genuine appreciation for The One who is capable of mending every broken place within us. Our God is one of restoration! He renews us each day, blessing us in ways that we cannot fully comprehend. Our everlasting Father is constantly on standby, never sleeping, never tired nor too busy, and always available to us.

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
-Psalm 77:11-12

 

Unnecessary Roughness

Our increasingly abrasive society seems fascinated with demonstrations of power. Media reflects the many ways that we equate power with strength. Whether it’s a game show, reality show, or infomercial, we are constantly bombarded with the message that being strong means being extremely opinionated and self-serving, seeking to “win” at any cost.

This pervasive worldly view is the exact opposite of the teachings of Christ. Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” As disciples, or followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to gentleness. Modern society equates gentleness with weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being gentle requires supernatural strength beyond our human capability. Gentleness is a fruit of God’s Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Gentle behavior requires a great deal of awareness because first, you need to know your own flaws and limitations. Second, being gentle means that despite those personal shortcomings you resist the urge to wrongfully take out your aggravations on others. James 3:17 says “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” Our news headlines are brimming with non-examples of gentle behavior. Oftentimes, people commit cruel and insensitive acts, then dismiss the pain they’ve caused, excusing themselves with the simple explanation: It’s just the way I am. True enough, that IS the default behavior and the way that we are in our flesh. Yet the fruit of the Spirit means putting aside our self-centered ways for a more excellent, God-centered way.
1 Corinthians 12:31 says Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.”

Fortunately, we are blessed with opportunities each day to draw upon God’s strength and respond with gentleness rather than callousness. It is my sincere prayer that when the next opportunity presents itself, we will respond with gentleness – one of the many spiritual weapons available through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

A Spiritual Legacy

Last week I prophetically declared that The Struggle is Over, because of a particularly intense prayer experience and the breakthrough I sensed in the spirit realm. The rest of the week was a wonderful manifestation of several changes I was trusting God to deliver.  As is often the case with this blog, God uses my personal experiences to highlight spiritual lessons about prayer. Better than any mailman, our faithful and sovereign God delivered on a number of urgent prayer petitions. I spent much of last week astounded and overwhelmed, reflecting on the Lord’s faithfulness as prayers were answered in ways far greater than I ever imagined.

In the midst of my rejoicing, one song in particular resonated in my heart “We’ve Come This Far by Faith“. At family reunions on my mother’s side, that song is THE family song. I do not even know when I first heard that song, it is so ingrained into my psyche. Although this song has been interwoven into our reunion activities as long as I could remember, prompting a smile each time I heard it elsewhere, it wasn’t until it sprang up in my heart this week that I realized “We’ve Come This Far by Faith” is, in fact, part of my personal spiritual legacy.

Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  I am quite grateful for the wonderful, mysterious, and inspiring lessons I’ve learned from a rich community of faith throughout my life that includes my biological family and others who treat me as family – fellow church members, neighbors, friends, classmates, and coworkers. It was during an especially anxiety-ridden time in college that I first read what I now consider my “sanity scripture” James 1:2-4 which says Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” My paternal grandmother endowed me with the Prayer of Serenity aspect of my spiritual legacy. She used to print that prayer on slips of paper and boldly give them to people as she went about her daily routine.

Spiritual maturation is simply the transition from being self-centered to Christ-centered, motivated by a fascination and desire for godly wisdom, understanding that as stated in 1 Corinthians 15:58 that it is only what we do for Christ that will last.  It is my sincere hope and prayer that you will reflect on your own spiritual pillars – which scriptures and songs anchor your spiritual journey? When life blindsides you, which fundamental truths empower you with hope and remind you that better days are coming? Does your lifestyle include prayer, praise, worship, and serving others as a priority or prerogative? Are you cultivating and sharing a spiritual legacy to inspire and fortify the generations that will follow you?

If you’ve never thought about it, or haven’t thought about it in a while, I encourage you to think back and look forward, asking God to reveal or remind you of your spiritual legacy – a gift that blesses you as well as future generations.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” 
-Deuteronomy 30:15-16

The Struggle is Over!

I recently moved to a beachside town. One of my prized possessions is a pair of backpack beach chairs which were gifted from my dear friend. These chairs are well-designed, equipped with handles as well as backpack straps, to easily transport them to the beachfront. The trouble is, although the beach chairs were easy to move and set up, I always had difficulty with collapsing the chairs when it was time to leave. Each time, my mechanical mind would spend several frustrating minutes attempting to return the chairs to their original compact position. What’s worse, once I successfully collapsed the chair, I was always so irritated and distracted that I was unable to successfully repeat the process the next time.

It wasn’t until I was intentional about proactively finding a solution that anything changed. Instead of waiting until I was at the beach, I researched the beach chair opening and closing online. I was delighted to find a brief video, less than 20 seconds long, that demonstrated how to properly close the chairs. I went from novice to pro within two minutes! I tried it out on my very next beach visit and Voila!

Reflecting on this situation made me realize that if we aren’t careful, we can face similar frustration in our prayer lives. All too often, we struggle with situations like I struggled with that beach chair – wrestling and working through multiple attempts and failures when we know in our hearts that there must be a better way. We wallow in our ignorance and grow frustrated, yet feel powerless to change the situation. Just as I sought a solution from a chair expert, we need to seek solutions from the Eternal Expert. Isaiah 55:8-9 says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Once I confessed my ignorance and sought an answer beyond my limited understanding, the solution presented itself and I was at peace. Similarly, when we stop clinging to our perceptions of how problems should be solved and invite the Lord to show and teach us, our load lightens considerably and immediately. Psalm 55:22 Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

We can get out of our own way regarding every struggle in our lives when we pray and invite God’s power and presence into every situation that concerns us. Colossians 1:11-12 says We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.” The situation doesn’t always change immediately, but the change in our perspective can be an instantaneous blessing through the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit. We don’t have to wait until the situation is fully resolved. We can rejoice in advance, knowing that the struggle is over!

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.” – James 1:5-6