Portable Power

Aboard a late flight, I reflected on how innovation allows us to travel broad distances in a relatively short time. Although there is no distance in the spirit realm (meaning that we can pray about anything regardless of where it may be happening), we also physically cover lots of territories. Imagine if we spoke with God about the places and people we pass as we take trips, run errands, or commute to work. Instead of being frustrated about the unexpected delay of an ambulance, how much more could we support spiritual needs by offering prayers as we see first responders racing by? How would our education system be affected if we offered prayers while sitting in the carpool lane waiting to pick up children from school or seeing students hop on our same train?

Our activities, interests, obligations, and responsibilities provide access to a variety of physical places. If we ask, the Lord will open our eyes to prayer requests that are like ripened fruit – just right for the picking and presenting to God. Psalm 145:18 says “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” We must guard against being blinded by the familiarity of our routines as well as the distraction of unfamiliar places. If nowhere else, we can start by seeking God’s heart, asking Him to burden our heart for the same things that trouble him. Proverbs 8:13 says “To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” We don’t have to stand idly by and we don’t have to feel anxious nor powerless. Philippians 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We have a lot of untapped power. While it is important to spend time privately with God, we are also to pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” As we navigate this world, whenever we encounter something troubling, that is our spiritual cue to pray. The prayer need only be sincere, not eloquent nor lengthy. God is not grading our oration ability, He is examining our hearts. He knows our thoughts and motives.

Regardless of where we physically go, because of the portable power of the Holy Spirit that lives within us, we can ask our heavenly Father to make us sensitive to the needs all around us. Romans 8:26 says “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” The next time you are heading to the marketplace, remember to use your portable power!

 

Light as a Feather

Sometimes life can weigh you down. The past week has been more challenging than most. It seemed like each time I got a handle on one situation and got some wind back in my sails, another situation would knock the wind right back out of me.  As the week went on, I just felt heavier and heavier.

Sunday night I was involved in a car accident. As a result, I missed my treasured bible study fellowship class Monday night. My usual Sunday post was published on Tuesday as I emerged from a medicated fog. On the Christian calendar, last Wednesday was also Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season. I have a beloved family member who works at the school where the horrific shooting occurred that day. I spent several hours on Ash Wednesday extremely concerned, not knowing her status. I was relieved to receive a confirmation later that evening that she was safe. However, the personal connection amplified my heartbreak as details unfolded. I attended a community prayer vigil on Thursday.

Attending the prayer vigil, being part of a praying community, completely changed my outlook. As prayers and hymns were lifted for everyone involved including students, families, various facets of the school system, and first responders, I felt a shifting in my spirit. Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.” Sometimes, when we are frustrated, discouraged, anxious, or heartbroken our instinct is to isolate ourselves. We just want to seal ourselves off from the world and privately tend to our wounds. Isolation can lead to circular patterns of anxious thoughts. Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  We weren’t designed to operate in isolation, especially when we are hurting. We are designed to exist in a community. There is strength in numbers. Acts 1:14 says “They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.”  Although I arrived at the vigil weighed down by multiple life concerns, I departed feeling much lighter. Galatians 6:2 says that we are to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The burdens of my heart had been distributed among the community of Believers and most importantly, collectively lifted to the Lord we trust and adore. Psalm 55:22 says “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” 

At the prayer vigil, I switched my lens to focus on the Lord and what I felt was right rather than wrong with the world. I reminded myself of God’s covenants and promises. Instead of marinating in a frustrating and uncertain place filled with vexing variables as I mentally played out alternate endings, I opted to focus on God as the constant. He is The One who can balance any equation. Unity, love, generosity, hope, and faith still exists. Caring, wise, resourceful, thoughtful, and generous people still exist. Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

I’m not saying that the rest of the week was a fairy tale complete with unicorns and fairies. I’m saying that my mindset changed. Romans 12:2 tells us “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.” I was able to see a path forward. I no longer felt stuck. For the remainder of the week, as I encountered bricks of troubling situations, I lifted the situation to God. I did my best to extend grace to others as I spiritually handed God each brick. I don’t want any of them – God can have them all because God can handle them all!

 

 

Called to Kindness

Some days I feel like an etiquette referee. I encounter unnecessary rudeness and want to call a flag on the play! I am often thunderstruck by the irony that we have so many ways to communicate and fail miserably at many of them. A text or email exchange can mount a war of words. A curt comment can send me into a tailspin. A brash tone can make me question myself, or worse yet, want to reciprocate with similar harshness.

Every day God presents us with countless opportunities to extend His love, grace, and mercy to others. Unfortunately, we tend to lead with our own self-absorbed agenda instead of seeking God’s agenda first. The results are catastrophic.

It seems that in our desire to do the ultimate and greatest good, we can miss the forest for the trees. We get caught up, then rush and rude our way through the nuances of everyday living because we are too preoccupied with the big picture. We miss extraordinary opportunities because they appear under the guise of ordinary situations. We must remember that we are called to kindness – not just when we feel happy or optimistic, but all the time. This mental and spiritual shift from “Me First” to “God First” is a deep, serious and lifelong work. The good news is that every day we get a new chance, a fresh opportunity, to experience and demonstrate God’s love. Anyone can give themselves a pass: “I’m having a rough day.” or “You have no idea what I’m going through.” But if we reserve expressions of love solely for times in our lives when everything is going swimmingly, we’d never do anything for anyone and God’s kingdom wouldn’t advance one iota.

You may not always be happy or deal with pleasant circumstances, but you can have joy which allows you to operate in love daily. Psalm 19:8 says The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” When we trust God to address every concern we have, we can focus our energy outward and be more compassionate in our interactions with others, even when they do not initially demonstrate or exercise kindness toward us. 1 Chronicles 16:23 says Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.” It is not by our own will or power, but through God’s Holy Spirit that we are able to express courtesy, kindness, and concern regardless of whether it’s reciprocated. An ability to return callousness, rudeness, or even downright hatred with love is a sacred responsibility. Luke 6: 35-36 Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” 

Seeing Beyond Circumstances

There is an appointed time for every thing. Ecclesiastes 3:1 begins by stating that “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Oftentimes, we think of seasons only in terms of positive times of health, peace, and prosperity. In truth, seasons can be positive or negative, but are often an ongoing combination of both. Difficult or unexpected challenges demand our energy, attention, and resources, making it difficult to focus on anything else. If we examine carefully enough, we can still identity blessings even in the midst of the most disheartening circumstances.

When facing challenging seasons, it is important to think of your difficult situation as temporary yet rich. Even when the challenge translates to continuing your life in a different way, such as major health crisis or the loss of a loved one, the event may be permanent or have longstanding repercussions, but your perspective and attitude about the ordeal can gradually change. Challenging seasons are temporary because they are designed to strengthen and mature us, to provide an opportunity to strengthen our faith. Every aspect of our identity intensifies when we we are crisis.

The Lord allows us to endure challenging seasons so that we can experience Him at work and He can be glorified through our lives. In the midst of challenges, many people around you are watching to see whether your previous declarations of faith withstand your current situation. Will you still declare God’s goodness or do you lash out, and distance yourself, as if you are punishing The One who holds all power in His hands? James 1:2-4 reminds us to “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.”

Building our faith involves cultivating a vision that allows us to see beyond our current challenges. Hebrews 11:1-2 tells us  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” It is easy to praise and glorify God based on what we see, but how often do we declare God’s goodness based on what we do not yet see, feel, hear, touch, or experience? We must speak life over ourselves in every situation. Speaking life helps us to fully internalize the truths that God is working everything together for our good, that we are His masterpiece and the apple of His eye, that the Lord loves us from everlasting to everlasting and will never leave nor forsake us. Speaking life and shifting our focus from our circumstances to our Creator makes it easier to see beyond whatever challenge we currently face. Our heavenly Father is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Those gifts go beyond surface appearances to address our deepest and most intimate needs for hope, love, joy, healing, deliverance and peace. If you feel uncertain of God’s love and intentions towards you, ask Him to open the eyes of your heart so that you can fully receive His love and every blessing He has designated to lift and carry you through your challenging season. 

 

Moving Forward

I observed an important lesson as I walked into church one brisk fall morning. A lady and her young daughter were walking into church ahead of me. The little girl was crying and screaming. She didn’t want to wear her hood, despite the chilly wind. She cried as she walked. The mother encouraged her daughter telling her things like it wasn’t much further, she was doing well, and that they were just around the corner. When the mother said “Look! I see the door!”, the little girl stopped crying altogether as they entered the building.

I admire both the little girl and her mother. The mother encouraged the child and stayed next to her, holding her hand the entire time. The little girl wailed and cried but never stopped walking.

In our journey of faith, we must learn to walk with the Lord, just as the daughter walked with her mother. Just as the little girl trudged forward through the freezing wind, even as distressing winds blow, we too must be determined to move forward. Despite our pain, despite feeling distracted, uncomfortable or unhappy, we must continue to hold the hand of and look to the one who can see far beyond our current place. Proverbs 3:5-6 says Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Life presents its share of surprises, but nothing takes God by surprise. Psalm 139:16 says Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Through every difficulty, we must continue to trust God. It is our heavenly Father, the giver of every good and perfect gift, who equips us to move forward. Deuteronomy 31:8 reminds us that The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

The next time you feel that you cannot go another step, think of that little girl. If you don’t feel you have enough faith, strength, or courage to move forward, pray and ask God to provide what you need.

What are you wearing?

Our clothing decisions are the hallmark of many special occasions. On a global scale, fashion is nearly a trillion dollar industry. Clothing is a daily decision of personal expression. Our self worth is often reflected in the way that we dress. In addition, societal norms also influence how we choose to clothe and adorn ourselves.

Although it is important to consider our outer garments and how we represent ourselves as we navigate the world around us, we must guard against becoming overly fixated on our outward clothing. Matthew 6:25 says “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

Our spiritual attire is far more important. We must prayerfully consider which characteristics fashion us above any physical garment we might wear. When we attempt to navigate the world without wearing the spiritual armor that the Lord issued to us when we joined His victorious army, we are naked and vulnerable, no matter how impressive we look on the outside. When challenges confront us – what are we wearing? Do we wrap ourselves in anxiety and depression like a shawl? Are we short-sited, wearing rebellion or rebellion like a jacket, daring anyone to approach us? Do we accessorize our biases with gossip and envy? Are we taking every step with guilt, regret and shame as our primary footwear? Stop right now and take that ugly stuff off. If you can’t bear to part with some of those familiar garments – ask God to help you shed them.

The world is rough. In part, John 16:33 tells us “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Just a few minutes of any daily newscast provides an extensive list of reasons why we must spiritually suit up and prepare for each day wearing our full armor. Details about the entire ensemble are available in Ephesians 6:12-17: “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.”

As familiar as they are, the Lord wants us to trade in our old rags for the beautiful outfits He has custom made just for us. Isaiah 61:3 says “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”

Peace in the Midst of Storms

Life is never all good nor all bad. It’s an ongoing combination of both. If you think about it, you could find something wrong with every good event. Likewise, you can find something positive even during bad events. In every situation, we make a choice about our area of focus. Life situations can take us by surprise and disrupt our sense of peace, security, confidence, (and if we are honest) control.

The Holy Bible includes many mentions of storms. Just like recent weather reports, the storms of life are unpredictable, forceful, and potentially dangerous. Oftentimes, the threat of so many unknown factors can fuel fear, amplify anxiety, and distract us as we try to chart a course of action to survive the storm. In the midst of life’s storms, we can erroneously assume that the Lord has turned His back and distanced himself from us. This is far from the truth. God is not like man. He will never leave nor forsake us. Hebrews 13:5 says “Don’t fall in love with money. Be satisfied with what you have. The Lord has promised that he will not leave us or desert us.” As difficult as they are, storms can be ultimately beneficial. Consider these silver lining benefits that can occur. During a storm, God:

  1. Has your attention – when life is going smoothly, we can become complacent and fixated on ourselves instead of seeking God’s will. We are not blessed for self-glorification, but to be a blessing to others. Proverbs 11:24-25 says “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” 
  2. Makes you prioritize – a sense of loss often accompanies storms. But, sometimes a physical loss is a spiritual gain. We can rejoice as we develop a stronger sense of awareness and gratitude about the way God provides for our essential needs – the physical and as well as the spiritual. Luke 12:29-31 says And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
  3. Allows you to recalibrate – the aftermath of life storms, can serve as a vehicle for a new beginning. The Lord can renew a right spirit within us and give us opportunities for a fresh start. Deuteronomy 30:3-4 says then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.”

Each storm you face is designed to mature you, not ruin you. In the midst of every storm, the Lord is faithful. He is omnipresent. We need only trust in Him and operate with faith-filled anticipation about Him bringing us out of the storm with a renewed since of faith, hope, joy, and peace. Philippians 4:7 says “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Storms allow us to view situations with new eyes where we can see God directly intervening on our behalf.

Psalm 107:28-31 says Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”