Don’t Be Shy!

It’s interesting how society favors the extrovert – the brash, outgoing, overtly expressive person. We are often encouraged to be bold in our public lives. Then somehow, when we step into our prayer space, we become timid, shy and reserved. We limit our petitions, we lower our expectations, then wonder why we feel spiritually dissatisfied.

God calls us to be humble, but not shy nor reserved with Him. 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.” My spiritual antenna goes up every time I see the word “all” in the Bible. Cast ALL my anxiety on you – really Lord? There are so many situations with myself and the world that burden my heart. Faith is believing that our heavenly Father is powerful enough to handle them all. Humility is recognizing our dependence on God – that we do not have to carry burdens, find our own solutions, or forge outcomes for ourselves. When we admit our limits and weaknesses, it releases that burden and serves as an open invitation for God to address whatever concerns us.

We are often plagued by fear, doubt, or shame. Those are tools of the enemy designed to hinder our prayer lives. Think about it: we have a relationship with God that the enemy can never have again. The devil is not after us per se, but after that rich, abundant relationship we can cultivate with our Creator.  When our spiritual self-esteem is low, we struggle to believe that God even cares about us or our situation. God absolutely cares! As the Negro Spiritual song says “King Jesus is a’listening when you pray.” 1 John 5:14-15 says This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

If you find yourself experiencing fear, doubt, guilt, or shame, ask God to remove those hindrances and just as it says in Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Then, proceed to pray boldly! Tell Him what upsets you, what troubles you, what scares you and invite Him to move in every situation that concerns you. I promise God is up for the challenge. He hears you, will never leave you and will answer when you call. 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 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. “
-Ephesians 6:10-18

Acknowledging Gifts

For some people, gift-giving is a task. For others, it is a joy. Major gift-giving often accompanies important milestone celebrations such as a wedding, birthday, or anniversary. By contrast, small gifts simply reflect appreciation. A small token can brighten someone’s day and remind them that they are loved. However, gifts require a measure of graciousness by the giver as well as the recipient. If you received a gift and didn’t express appreciation to the giver, what is the likelihood of receiving another gift from that person? Similarly, if someone gave you a gift and repeatedly boasted to others about what they did for you, would you want to receive another gift from them?

Have you ever gone out of your way to do something nice for someone and they never thanked you? It’s frustrating to behave in a thoughtful manner which is not acknowledged. Can you imagine how our Heavenly Father could feel?

Thankfully, God’s ways are not our ways. Every day, we receive multiple gifts from the Lord – life, health, strength, wisdom, favor, peace, protection, provision, grace, mercy, and the list goes on. We often take these gifts for granted and barely acknowledge them. Yet the following day, by His grace, we are gifted with similar blessings all over again. We rarely express any measure of gratitude for receiving these gifts, only frustration and disappointment when the flow of gifts seems to dry up. The Lord blesses us with magnificent and common, regular and extraordinary gifts that are designed just for us. He winks at us, taking note of our obedience, being in touch with our innermost needs, then orchestrating events across the expanse of the universe that minister to us, even addressing needs which we don’t realize we have. God encourages us in our growth and extends mercy where we fall short. Psalm 145:9 says “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”

Adopting an attitude of gratitude is essential to cultivating a vigorous and fulfilling prayer life. Reflecting on God’s goodness means changing your prayer priorities. Spiritually shifting focus from what you want to who God is cultivates a grateful and humble heart. The more you take an inventory of blessings, the more you recognize God constantly at work in your life, the better you’ll feel about every situation that concerns you. Acknowledging who God is and what He does sets the stage for an extraordinary life of gratitude.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17

 

 

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

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