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

 

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

 

 

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

A Piece of Peace

The world seems filled with turmoil. Newscasts are filled with stories of injustice, destruction, violence, and despair. There is an increasingly predatory slant to our society where the people are desperate to protect and defend what’s theirs. Our souls grow weary as we long to escape to a stress-free zone.

Internally, these troubles take a toll on our spiritual and emotional health. We feel frustrated, aggravated, and conflicted about so many issues, wondering about a safe haven. Even the places where we used to find solace are under threat. Shootings occur in places we never dreamed – including schools, movie theatres, and churches. Struggles threaten our relationships and sense of well being. We long for peace and wonder whether there is any remaining place where peace can be found.

As the saying goes, prayer makes a difference. Prayer doesn’t make us physically invincible, it makes us spiritually unstoppable. Romans 8:37 says “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” There are no limits – physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, creative, psychological, mental, relational – in the Lord. Prayer connects us to God through the power of His Holy Spirit. We cannot create peace, but we can invite peace into our lives through the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” We can offer ourselves as instruments and vessels of God’s peace in this world filled with all manner of conflict, chaos, and confusion. God brings peace to our hearts. When we have a portion of God’s peace, it filters the world around us. Job 11:18-19 says “You will be secure because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor.” We have the option to carry peace in our hearts along with God’s many other extended benefits – hope, joy, faith, and courage. These gifts are absolutely free for the asking and have the potential to infect and affect every aspect of our lives. Psalm 29:11 says “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.” As we seek God and receive peace for ourselves, we gain the wisdom to better engage with the world around us. Peace does not have to make logical sense because it is a spiritual gift. Our loving Father who sees all, knows all, and transcends time can bless us with peace, even in the midst of the most turbulent circumstances.

“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.”
-Philippians 4:6-7