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

 

 

Crisis before Victory

It seems to never fail. When anticipating a wonderful life event, a tidal wave of trouble always seems to hit just ahead of your blessing. You find yourself in the midst of an unexpected crisis. The word crisis originates from the Greek “krinein” which literally means “decision”. The word was originally intended to describe the turning point of a disease where a major change takes place, resulting in either recovery or death.

Although it is derived from a medical situation, the spiritual aspects of a crisis condition fit the same description. A crisis is a spiritual turning point as well. Turbulent and stress-filled moments often help us discover or reinforce our true source of strength. A crisis is where the spiritual rubber meets the road. Your spiritual positioning dictates your path to certain victory or crushing defeat. Regardless of the nature of the crisis, prayer should be part of your coping strategy. Consider these critical components in your prayers:

  1. Acknowledge who God is based on experiences from your own life. Reflect on previous difficulties from the perspective of a survivor rather than a victim. If it helps, open your prayer as if you were making a celebratory toast – heaping on your praise to God and stating how much He means to you! Psalm 68:19-20 says “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.”
  2. Ask God to cleanse you by flushing toxins like fear, unforgiveness, envy, worry, and harshness from your spirit and replacing them with courage, love, joy, kindness, and peace. Psalm 51:10 says “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
  3. Release the situation to God by asking Him to move on your behalf. Pray for everyone who comes to mind that is associated with the situation. Most importantly, pray that God’s will be done. Resist the temptation to help God by dictating how you would like the situation resolved. His solutions are better than ours anyway. We may beg God for a leaf where He intends to bless us with a garden! John 5:17 says “But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.””
  4. Watch for God’s solution and continue to seek His face, practicing your spiritual habits in the meantime. Don’t allow yourself to boycott God. Doing so only delays your breakthrough and increases your frustration. Psalm 145:18 says “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.”

God has already worked out the situation so that you can spiritually mature, even as God is being glorified. Crisis situations can increase our faith because they force us to confess our natural limitations and rely on God’s supernatural power. The battle is already won! When we pray with expectation God rewards our faith and allows us to walk in certain spiritual victory!

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
-James 1:12

Give It Up!

Life’s ups and downs can throw off our spiritual focus. When unanswered prayers stretch into time frames beyond our anticipated estimates, we become discouraged and can drift even further away from our intended Christ-centered focus. It is in those very moments of feeling weary and uncertain that we need to double down on our efforts to seek God’s guidance, wisdom, and favor. We need to demonstrate that no matter what difficulties we face, we trust God above all else, and eagerly await His answers. 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.” Our desperation for relief means we need to show God that we are serious about trusting Him, that we are willing to deny ourselves so that we can focus on whatever lesson He is teaching in this season. We need a change. We need resolution. We need peace. We need a breakthrough. We need to fast. The time has arrived to Give It Up! and fast.

Fasting is a sacrifice of enjoyment. Traditional fasts involve abstaining from food for a specific amount of time. However, modern lifestyles provide a host of other pleasurable distractions. Today’s fasting can be any sacrificial act that allows you to spend time with the Lord that you’d normally spend catering to yourself. It transforms your “me” time to “we” time with God. Whether your “me” time involves a television, social media, time-consuming hobby, or enjoyable meal – denying those indulgences and spending that time with the Lord can reap tremendous benefits. Here are a few key considerations. Always fast with:

  1. Discretion and humility: No one else needs to know you’re fasting. You don’t need to broadcast your activities. Fasting is about your relationship with the Lord, not impressing your friends. Matthew 6:16-18 says “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
  2. Focused prayer: Share your heart with God. Ask His forgiveness for your sins so you can start your fast with a clean slate and sharper focus. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” God already knows your heart. Articulating your needs, concerns, fears, and desires to God benefits you and invites Him into those situations that concern you.
  3. Expectation: Reflect on past victories in Christ. Allow those recollections to fuel your anticipation. Cultivate a successful vision and thank God in advance for your next victorious breakthrough. Ephesians 6:18 says “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Remember that we are God’s creation. He does not want to destroy us, He wants to build us up. He wants us to grow and flourish. Fasting involves temporarily sacrificing earthly pleasures to recognize and gain eternal spiritual treasures.

 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Miraculous Restoration

I was delighted to hear a powerful testimony from my father.  While on the highway, he had to swerve which made the back end of his vehicle hit a retaining wall – BOOM! He could hear and feel the impact from the hit, yet decided not to stop immediately to survey the damage. My Dad resolved that he couldn’t do anything about it at that moment anyway and continued on his way. A short time later, he went to inspect the damage and there was NONE – not even a scratch. He praised God for miraculous restoration.

Through prayer, we can invite God to miraculously restore us, just like that vehicle. Although life situations can damage us, the Lord can bring about restoration of all kinds – spiritual, occupational, physical, emotional, intellectual, financial, environmental, and social. We need only to ask. Psalm 51:12 says “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” 

As humans, our power is limited. No matter how hard we try, we are incapable of blessing ourselves. Even when we desperately desire it, we cannot grant ourselves wisdom, peace, hope, joy, faith, comfort, provision nor protection. Yet, these gifts are given freely through a relationship with God. Ephesians 2:8 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” God gives us purpose and provides what we need so that we can mature in understanding His character. Everything we need, including miraculous restoration, is available through Jesus Christ. God gives us free will. We need only to exercise faith in Christ to reflect God’s love instead of life’s hardships.

 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” -Romans 5:1-4

 

Father’s Mayday

As the United States Father’s Day holiday approaches, I realize people may struggle with this day for a variety of reasons. For some, the day is one of reflection of biological or other father figures who are no longer among the living. For others, the day is a painful reminder of the stark contrast between society’s ideal father vs. individual life experience. One of my dearest friends recently asked about these contradictions as it relates to praying. Specifically, how do we align scriptures regarding children and parents with a need to establish expectations and boundaries for healthy relationships? How do we eliminate toxic relationships when the “toxins” are our own flesh and blood? Does God intend for us to assume a passive posture in tolerating relationships that may harm us emotionally, physically, or spiritually?

The short answer is no. John 10:10 says “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Does abundant mean wealthy and prosperous? Not necessarily. Abundant is defined as plentiful. When you have plenty of something, you use it generously because you have no fear of your supply being depleted. Abundant life is less about money and more about the fruits of the holy spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 as …love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” When you have plenty of love, joy, peace and all of the other fruits – you share it generously, trusting that God will constantly restock these fruits to your spiritual shelf. 

However, abundant life also means exercising wisdom and discernment. On the whole, we seem to be willing to sever ties once we recognize that a relationship is toxic. However, when the toxic relationship involves a relative, especially a parent, we are typically more willing to permit prolonged exposure, even when it harms us in the process. If a relationship is unhealthy meaning that it tears us down rather than builds us up, seems to stagnate rather than grow, and constantly requires us asking God for forgiveness, we need to pray and ask God for wisdom regarding the relationship. For our own spiritual protection and emotional safety, we may need at best to suspend the relationship to limit the threat to our own well-being. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Many parents of adult children quote Colossians 3:20 or Ephesians 6:1-3 which says Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” These scriptures are literally intended for children, those who are not full grown. Furthermore, if we continue to verse 4 of Ephesians 6, it also states: And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” 

We can be respectful and love, even if from a distance. Nothing can stop us from praying for forgiveness to release those we feel have wronged us, even if it was a parent or parental figure. We never know how God may work on hearts and minds to bring about reconciliation. Once we are reconciled with God (the vertical relationship), it becomes much easier to reconcile with one another (the horizontal relationships). Continue to pray without ceasing and invite God’s light and loving presence to flood every area of your life and the lives of those you love, specifically those you feel have wronged you.

 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” –2 Corinthians 12:9a

Cruelty-Free Conversation

Civil discourse is sorely lacking in society. Wikipedia defines civil discourse as engagement in discourse (conversation) intended to enhance understanding.” We are in an era where people no longer are concerned about truth or gaining understanding. Instead, we cloister around those who are “right”, meaning that they share our perspective, and we attack those who do not. We are self-absorbed and more concerned about “winning” than the well-being of our fellow man.  Concern for the greater good is overshadowed by self-absorption and vanity disguised as self-preservation. We are quick to attack others who disagree and slow to defend those who appear vulnerable.

This self-centered mindset can also wreak havoc with our prayer lives. Prayer is a conversation with God which requires a shift from self-centered to Christ-centered thinking. It is our natural, human inclination to focus solely on ourselves – what we want, think, and feel. It is radically irrational to defer every situation that concerns us to the will of God, our heavenly Father, in a timing which is divinely ordered instead of personally dictated.

Yet, the more we ask God to examine our hearts and renew our minds, the easier this transformation becomes. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Through His Holy Spirit, the Lord speaks to us, blessing us with an assured sense of peace, self-control, patience, gentleness, and joy that cannot be swayed by news headlines or personal irritants. Galatians 5:22-23 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

The enemy revels in chaos and confusion which breeds fear. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The enemy tries to distract us by allowing us to experience disheartening situations intended to steal our joy, make our faith falter, or diminish our peace. However, in those dark moments, we must remind ourselves that our hope does not lie in hollow promises of this world, but the eternal promises of an everlasting God. A God who will never leave nor forsake us. A God who is sovereign and the giver of every good gift. In addition to reminding ourselves of who God is, as we pray, we must also remember that we are created in God’s image and more than conquerors.

As we navigate this world, as Christians we need not be cruel. Instead of cruel comments that kill, ask God to grant wisdom so that we can speak the truth in love that leads to life.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.
-Ephesians 3:16-21