Beware of Blind Spots!

Navigating traffic requires a high level of focus. When you are about to change lanes, the place you plan to occupy may look clear and available, but as you begin to make your move, you might quickly learn that you missed something and the space is not available after all. It can be frustrating and discouraging, not to mention dangerous, as you try to regroup and revise your plan.

It is the same with us spiritually. We can become so preoccupied with our next move that we only view our situation from one angle. As a result, we may miss something critical that nearly bowls us over.

The most dangerous driver is the one who assumes they drive perfectly. Similarly, the most dangerous Christian is the one who assumes they are completely righteous and have no areas to learn, grow, or mature. Pride is a major spiritual blind spot that the enemy often attempts to use against us.  Psalm 10:4 says In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” It is contrary to our human nature, but we must confess our need for God. Proverbs 28:13 says “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

To avoid painful collisions on the road of life, we must ask our omnipresent (all-seeing), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful) Creator to check the blind spots of our lives. Psalm 37:5 says “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” We must trust God to help us navigate through bumps, unexpected slowdowns, and dangerous blind spots. If we seek His guidance ahead of making a move, we are guaranteed to not only make it to our destination but to enjoy the journey along the way.

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” -2 Corinthians 12:9

May God’s power continue to work through you!

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

 

 

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

 

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!

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