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

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