Calling on the Name

Over the holiday weekend, I was delighted to give and receive messages from many loved ones. Yesterday, I reflected on my multitude of life roles and the various names that I answer to. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, sorority sister, neighbor, girlfriend, coworker, customer, intercessor, classmate, worshipper, and the list goes on. A unique name accompanies nearly every role. I thought about how I am sometimes able to identify a sender or caller based on how I am addressed.

These thoughts led me to think about our expectations when we call on the Lord. As we transform from being self-centered to Christ-centered, knowing the various names of the Lord – who we trust God to be – is vital to our spiritual growth. God is all-encompassing. According to Exodus 3:14, God is the great I AM: “God said to Moses, I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” The I AM reference is not a limitation as if the statement is an incomplete sentence. Rather, it is the opposite. I AM refers to the fact that God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (everywhere at the same time). There are no boundaries nor limitations. The Lord knows us intimately and understands our motives and intents, even when we are unable to articulate them.

There is no question about how well God knows us. The question becomes how well do we know God? We sometimes restrict God, deciding for whatever reason that a situation is not God-sized. In those moments, we should remind ourselves of God’s names.  There are entire books devoted to the names of God the FatherGod the Son, and God the Holy Spirit reflecting His triune identity as our:

  • Creator (Genesis 1:1)
  • Provider (Genesis 22:14)
  • Healer (Exodus 15:26)
  • Banner (Exodus 17:15)
  • Peace (Judges 6:24)
  • Shepherd (Psalms 23:1)
  • Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6)
  • Savior (Luke 2:11)
  • Redeemer (Job 19:25)
  • Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5)
  • Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4)
  • Peace (Ephesians 2:14)
  • Way (John 14:6)

This is not an exhaustive list, just a glimpse into the powerful entity that we can directly access through prayer. The Lord provides opportunities to learn about Him across his broad spectrum of identities. We need only to believe in Him and call on His name to tap into that transformational power.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
-Isaiah 11:2

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Trusting in God’s Timing

The third chapter of Ecclesiastes begins with “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” We often have a plan, our own mental movie starring us and others who figure prominently in our lives. In our movie, we write scenes and timelines, develop our plans, and are deeply disappointed when delays occur. Waiting on God is a bold, spiritually mature, and worthy endeavor. Waiting on God is excellent in theory, but far more difficult in practice. Psalm 27:14 advises that we “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Instead of deferring to God’s divine timeline through His all-seeing and all-knowing filter of wisdom, we want what we want, when we want it. When situations do not occur according to our timeline, it seems that we are more likely to question God instead of ourselves. Although Proverbs 3:5 tell us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not into your own understanding.” We are often guilty of viewing the world through our needs and desires instead of seeking God’s will for our lives. God is not interested in torturing nor discouraging us. He wants us to live a life of abundance. John 10:10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” God also wants to bless us with wonderful gifts. In fact, He wants to give us the desires of our heart. James 1:17 says Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Psalm 37:4-5 tells us to “4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. 5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” When the Bible speaks of God’s benefits, it is preceded with instruction. All too often, we focus on the benefit, such as receiving the desires of our hearts, because it aligns with our will instead of the instruction based on God’s will.

The key to trusting in God’s timing is to focus on our relationship with God and obedience to His will, instead of a specific result or timeframe according to our will. To trust God is to glorify God. Our Heavenly Father wants to us to cultivate a relationship and build an atmosphere of trust with Him. As we seek His face and His will, God also wants to guide us toward being who He designed us to be, and to bless His kingdom in specific ways. The key to trusting in God’s timing lies in our relationship with Him. The ability to patiently wait on the Lord is a byproduct of a deeper level of trust with our Creator.  It means releasing our pre-conceived notions and plans to defer to God’s plan which is far greater and ultimately more beneficial. Isaiah 40:31 reminds us “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Behaving Boldly

Society often equates being “a good Christian” with being a doormat for the world to tread upon. Our Heavenly Father is full of grace, wisdom, mercy, love, and truth.  As Christians, we strive to embody those same characteristics. Unfortunately, a skewed worldly view means that as Christians, we are often expected to tiptoe through our existence, never offending or disagreeing with anyone despite the fact that others offend us daily. This passive perception of Christianity is wildly inaccurate. The same way that we are called to exhibit love, mercy, and grace, we are also called to holy boldness. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Holy boldness does not mean behaving with arrogant self-righteousness. We are not called to deputize ourselves as some sort of spiritual police, judging and discounting others, while placing ourselves on a pedestal. We are called to serve. Holy boldness is having the courage of conviction to stand for the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of opposition. Consider these scenarios:

  • When someone tells an offensive joke, do you laugh outwardly and cringe inwardly?
  • When you see someone being mistreated, do you look the other way?
  • When you see a glaring need, do you think about ways you can help or instead think about reasons why you cannot possibly lend a hand?

Love is the key component for holy boldness. We cannot operate in holy boldness apart from God’s Holy Spirit. God is love. 1 John 4:8 says “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Holy boldness inherently means operating with faith and courage in obedience to God. We are God’s hands and feet on this earth. God allows us to encounter situations which call us to holy boldness. These are situations where we recognize that we respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.” Usually, these acts of kindness, concern, conscientiousness, truth, and assistance may be far outside of our comfort zone. Holy boldness doesn’t mean being rude, it means responding with loving conviction. These situations are designed for our spiritual growth and maturity.

Responding with holy boldness is a double blessing. First, it blesses the hearer or recipient because it can plant a seed where people examine their motives, actions, and responses. Second, it blesses the speaker or giver because of they are responding in obedience to God. Ephesians 3:12 says In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” The end of Galatians 5:6 says “…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” We can navigate our lives with confidence, seeking our next God-given assignment, knowing that the Lord is the source of our hope, courage, faith, strength, and love. It is our relationship with God that allows us to operate with loving obedience and holy boldness. 2 Corinthians 3:12 says “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.”

 

 

 

Provoked to Prayer

As we go about our daily routines, we often observe troublesome situations: the homeless man begging at a busy intersection, a young mother yelling at her child, a senseless news story that breaks our heart.

Beyond observations, there are situations that we directly encounter: a tense conversation with a loved one, a stressful event at work, or unexpected news from the doctor.

All too often, we cluck our tongues, shake our heads and give in to feelings to irritation, frustration, or worry. These feelings and reactions are perfectly natural. However, I invite you to also consider the spiritual aspect of these everyday occurrences.

Have you ever asked yourself why certain situations resonate so deeply with you?

It is my belief that such situations are intended to prompt us to pray. That sinking feeling and burden that we feel in our heart is actually a prayer assignment notification. God is connecting with His very same Holy Spirit which abides in you to solicit your prayers. This is not just a nice idea, but a sacred responsibility. In fact, scripture specifically states that it is a sin against the Lord to fail to pray for someone. When we deny prayer, we are essentially denying the power of God to bring about resolution.

“23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”
– 1 Samuel 12:23-24 (NIV)

The next time you feel that vexation in your spirit – pray! Ask God to move in the situation of that individual as well as everyone else who who could fall into that same category or be associated with that category. For example, seeing the homeless man may prompt you to pray for him, but also for:

  • the entire homeless population
  • those who provide services to the homeless
  • those in positions of authority to influence policies that benefit the homeless

Your resulting prayer will bring you a sense of peace because you’ve been obedient and fulfilled your spiritual assignment. Prayer is one of the simplest, yet most powerful spiritual disciplines that you can develop. It requires no special tools nor qualifications, yet it has the power to bring about miraculous changes for God’s glory.

My hope with this blog is that you will be encouraged to cultivate a rich prayer life that strengthens, empowers, and blesses you.

So the next time you feel troubled, irritated or aggravated, I hope that you remember this post and are provoked to prayer!