Have you had moments in life when you clearly hear God speaking? It's like he's standing right behind you ~ whispering in your ear in moments that are filled with his image and nearness? Do those times come with foreboding because you remember other such precious times that ended with challenge and trails? Was it almost like he was preparing you ahead, filling you will his power and presence? And so, in a time when joy should fill your heart for his dynamic Presence and unique form in your life, instead you find yourself wrestling with concern for what might be ahead?
I have spoken of Moses before and his unique Divine relationship. As I read the accounts it was amazing, yet Moses comes through as real and human and fragile. A frailty that's a lot like I imagine myself to be, seeing glimpses of the Divine God occasionally, all the while knowing it's none of what I am or anything I have done, but all him, for specific reasons surpassing simple love.
Moses knew God through events filled with transformation, challenge and spirit-filling, still in those moments, his call required real effort ~ not only for others, but as the testament of obedience and love that it would become to God.
It can be hard to sort out. Maybe none of this makes sense to you. Maybe it lands where you are currently living? If so, it's too late to run. All you, all we, can do now, is continue to listen. Wait to be moved. And pray we are able to fulfill what he will ask of us.
Now prayer becomes essential.
On October 5th we will begin our new book, Your Powerful Prayers. It would be fun to know a little more about prayer before we do. What would you want to know?
One common question is: How can I get God to give me what I ask for? That sounds like a jaded question perhaps, but haven't you ever wondered why you get the answers you want to prayer, and other times - not? I have. I have asked God how I can replicate whatever brought the blessing of an affirmative response, and other times I have asked why when even in desperate prayer I have not received what I pleaded for. It's natural. Scripture writes about a man named Cornelius:
"Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. ..." Acts 10.4b
Our prayers matter. Cornelius was a man who prayed often. He was also a righteous man who honored God with his income, shared his faith, and spent time in prayer regularly. So, do you and I have to do all those things to get something we ask for? No, it seems God loves us all, even though he does appreciate a special love for him, and does occasionally show his appreciation of that love in unique ways.
In our upcoming book, Your Powerful Prayers, we are going to wrestle with those internal questions. We will look more closely at our motives, explore our unquestioning trust in God to always give us what is best for us, and our practice of, and belief in, PRAYER.
For now, all I will say about this question of why we get good answers, and other times not, is that God knows. But as God, he is unable to give his children bad anything. The rest of the answer is buried deep inside us. Join me on October 5th when we begin to look at our life of prayer.
Oh my gosh, fall's here. I see more leaves on the ground everyday. I vacuum them up with the lawn-mower, but, there's always more. My littlest granddaughter said recently, "Nanny, it feels like fall." Yes, it did. That reminded her about jumping into piles of leaves at their other grandparents house just days before... which reminded me of my long-ago, fun days of fall and Halloween.
I loved the old Peanuts cartoon about Halloween, called, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." The story goes (as Linus tells it) that when a person's heart is pure, and their belief is strong, the Great Pumpkin rises up out of the pumpkin patch on Halloween night and gives that little girl or boy huge rewards! Or so Linus thinks...
All that thinking about Linus' mythical pumpkin makes me ask this question. Do you have any mythical traditions, or superstitions about faith? Do you have a 'Linus tale' or two tucked away somewhere? Here's a common myth many Christians share:
Many believe that Christian faith is blind. Nope. That's false.
Faith is not blind. Faith is based on facts, reason, and evidence. The verse many think of is Paul's command to 'walk by faith, not by sight.' [2 Corinthians 5:7] That verse simply means to live knowing what you are receiving after this life. Eternity cannot be seen now, but the work Christ accomplished on the Cross can be seen in answers to our prayers, in the sanctification faith brings into our life, or the change in a loved one who comes to faith in Christ, and so much more! So the act of believing DOES NOT make us blind.
Back to the Great Pumpkin. Poor little Linus sat in that pumpkin patch all night. The Great Pumpkin didn't appear with rewards for Linus because the Great Pumpkin didn't exist. Linus had a false impression that grew into a precept in his life. When we read the Bible we don't want to read into it what we want it to say, but we need to let it speak to us. That is we need to consider context and not try to make some precept into something unique just for us or a friend.
So faith is not ONLY believing, but it's believing because you have knowledge of the elements making up this truth, you have agreement with those elements, and you have CONFIDENCE in them as ‘of God’ with the ability to influence life and circumstances for good!
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
Wow, summer went by fast.
Are you reminiscing about the fun and freedom of summer vacations? Are you reliving moments spent together with children and extended family? Are you trying to ignore the waning of warmer weather which removes the gloom of Oregon's rain and clouds? Do you find yourself feeling melancholy knowing the everyday grind is back?
This missing of summer days and their fun reminds me of that famous passage in Ecclesiastes. Chapter 3, verses 1-5.
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; ..." etc.
We often take this passage to mean that life is filled with many things, some quite difficult. But just a little further in verses 11-12 we read:
"He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; ..." (emphasis mine)
So this isn't talking about God designing a perfect time for everything under heaven as much as it is saying that we have a habit of remembering better days and missing the past instead of embracing with all joy the present. When unpleasant things come we need to remember that to live with joy is what life is about. That life should be lived, at all times and in all circumstances, remembering it's preciousness.
What is the take-away then? Well, each of us will see it differently because we are unique. But here's an example from my life.
You have often read about our littlest grandchildren. They are such a gift and fill my life up with so much joy that I cherish each time I get to have them here. But now our son, their father, has taken a job out of our immediate area. They won't be too far away but frequent visits during the week won't happen any more. Should I spend time now missing the days I won't have anymore?
I need to find new purpose for the allotted time I used to get with them. I realize that God has something I need to do now with this time. I'm asking, but I'm not sure yet what he has in mind. Ecclesiastes tells me I need to find the JOY in this time because it's perfectly made for now. And when I do get to see my littlest ones again, my heart will be full of joy and I will have plenty to share.
Find your joy. Whatever moment you may have before you, remember God made it perfectly for you and now. Each breath is a gift, don't waste it on wishing for something else... it could be that the future turns out better than what you want to relive.
I don't want to leave this discussion about the one behind the curtain until
we touch on the last part of this thought mentioned by Priscilla.
On the bottom of page 50 she begins,
"Personalize your prayer by asking God to help you pull back the curtain today--and every single day-- so you can see when the devil is behind the argument, the frustration, the anger, the discord, the falsehood, the insecurity, the fear."
The picture above was the Wizard of Oz in his true form. Amazing isn't it ~ such a difference from the picture he tried to project to intimidate and manipulate for his purposes (as seen in Friday's post) .
So what's behind your curtain? Are there 'bogeymen' hiding? My littlest grand babies get big eyes when I might mention bogeymen. And the oldest of the two would assure me (although I'm quite sure she is really trying to assure herself) that, 'Bogeymen are pretend, Nanny.' Both of them have a sound understanding even now that God is with them. He is everywhere. He knows everything. And even though bad things do happen in our family just like they do in every family, they believe that God does still, and will always, love us.
One day their parents will have the talk about the evil one, yet at this tender age I'm sure we don't need to bring him up just yet. But you and I are not so naive or innocent and we DO need to consider the evil one.
Just so you know what to look for, here's how Christ described him. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy." So anytime things are going sideways it's safe to wonder if it's just the Wizard again trying to get his way.
Always remember how Christ finished the thought above. He said, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
In Strategy 3 Priscilla brings back to mind the movie the Wizard of Oz.
Released in 1939, the story was a huge success. If you're unfamiliar with the tale, briefly it's about a young woman, Dorothy, who dreams of an alternate place where there is a kingdom run by a mighty wizard who calls himself the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. He tells Dorothy he holds ALL THE POWER in the land, and that he, and only he, holds the key to her way back home. However, she later finds out the Wizard is no wizard, he has NO magic, and she has always had the power to go home. All she had to do was FOCUS on home!
"He [your enemy] wants you focused on things that are physical and visible instead of where the action really is. "Pay no attention," in other words, "to the man behind the curtain."' Page 40.
Illusionists are remarkable. They can do unfathomable things right in front of us. They're fun to watch, but we all know they are just using a trick, albeit a good one, but it's just a trick done while distracting our attention. That's the point Priscilla wants us to see as we consider our struggles and situations in life. There's often a man behind the curtain making smoke, and flames, and ominous images to scare the stuffin' out of us leaving us so frightened we forget WE HAVE THE POWER we need to stop him cold. Christ accomplished that victory!
Will it change our circumstances? If God's will at that moment is our testing resulting in growth and more opportunity, then perhaps not. But if our suffering is the trembling, uncertainty, fear and confusion of that distraction brought on by the enemy, then YES we can eliminate that!
The trick this illusionist employs is one of distraction. He knows if you stop long enough and think about it you will realize you have power, and that Christ has already defeated ALL the nonsense the enemy can throw against you.
The enemy's means of warfare against us and our joy is: Distract, DISTRACT, DISTRACT!
Don't be fooled by the man behind the curtain. He's only a pathetic, hopeless and vanquished foe.
~ One more week of camping! Too much fun! See you live in September (: Andi
"If I were your enemy, I'd use every opportunity to
bring old wounds to mind, as well as the people, events
and circumstances that caused them. I'd try to ensure
that your heart was hardened with anger and bitterness..."
In this chapter Priscilla shares an important story. It's a
tale of misunderstanding, growing anger, all eventually
ending in deeply-rooted bitterness and hurt.
I've lived through it, that revolving doorway of hurt. Just like the revolving doors at the airport we have opportunities to simply walk out, but instead we continue going around in that circle.
When remembering some of my most painful hurts it seemed that after a while what caused the misunderstanding didn't matter as much to me as the woundedness I blamed on someone else. But if we could see behind the scenes we'd realize that while we're going through all this suffering, the enemy is laughing!
The enemy enjoys layering on injury and imagining - encouraging the creative 'blaming' on everyone but us to run wild! Soon a sad situation has become a mess. We're playing right into the enemy's hands. Holding a grudge? Feeling abused? Unforgiving? Convinced of the absolute worst we could 'imagine...?' Blaming others... We're headed straight into an attitude of bitterness and hurt...
On page 161 Priscilla writes:
"Prayer gets at the truth. The truth of what happened? Yes. If that's really what took place, then yes. The real facts and details don't change as you get real with God in prayer. But get ready for some other pieces of information to bubble up to the surface as well..."
It's true that when we come to a place of wanting healing - God will help us. (But He never said it would be pretty.) You may see, as Priscilla did, as I did, your own complicity in the misunderstanding. You may see that your unforgiveness caused an escalation of the hurt you and another suffered. You may even see that your mistaken impressions fostered an attitude of false impressions that had nothing to do with the truth.
Then, when God lays all the evidence on the table, you can pick up the pieces that are yours. You can ask for His forgiveness and watch those pieces vanish. You feel the freedom and peace of forgiveness and are able to then focus on forgiving.
It's natural to think that God always listens
to us, and that He is ever near. Still, there are
days when our devotional time feels more like
a lonely walk in the woods than it does following Divine foot prints in the sand. How can we fix that?
Do you remember Star Trek? The starship Enterprise used a forcefield to protect itself.
The forcefield was invisible but extremely effective. It repelled weapon attacks, approaching debris in space, etc. We tend to do something similar when we are in protection-mode.
We put up a forcefield when we want to avoid injury. Is it invisible to us, do we see what we're doing? Sometimes. Is it effective? Oh, very. Here's how it looks. Have you ever asked yourself, 'Where did God go?' 'I pray.' 'I read.' 'I cry, and nothing.' 'Where is He?'
God may not be saying anything, or, perhaps He's talking to you but He can't get through. Is your forcefield up? Are you protecting yourself from dealing with things you know He wants to talk about? You're trying to avoid the pain the process could cause. Frankly, are you afraid God is going to fire that laser and blow your heart to bits? It can feel like your heart is shattered, but just on the other side of that feeling is God's embrace and healing. So, when he puts your heart back together it will be stronger, bigger, more forgiving, and more closely resembling the heart of Christ. Do you really want protection from that?
When you hit that time in devotions when God seems to be nowhere, consider your forcefield. Is it up? So what should we do about that? Drop the forcefield. He will always turn your fear of hurt into growth and joy.
"Make me to know your way, O Lord;
teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, ..." Psalm 25:4
In this series we've looked at choosing our devotional space and dressing it up for that sense of holiness and relationship. We also explored reclaiming time from our schedule so our devotional routine can flourish. Now with time and a space, what do we need to do?
For the longest time I believed the only way to study the Bible was listening to a teacher. After all I thought, I don't know all the ins and outs of the Bible. I wanted to be sure I understood Scripture clearly and that I wasn't coming up with interpretations that were just mine or were wrong understandings, not corroborated or supported by other biblical texts.
Listening to someone teach who has years of experience is a quick way to learn, it's like taking giant steps that quickly give us deeper comprehension. But speed in learning isn't always the important thing with God. Sometimes it's the small, coincidental lessons we experience along the way that make huge changes in our life. How do we study then? Here's a few suggestions:
1. Reading consistently is the best help. Bouncing around in our reading may not give us the context of God's story that we want. Read consistently. Following a reading plan is very important. Many reading plans are free online.
2. Using a Bible with commentary notes is also a great idea. And reading different translations of a passage also broadens understanding.
3. There are bible-study websites that offer free use of commentaries, dictionary and even scholarly tools for deeper comprehension. A couple I like are: biblehub.com and biblegateway.com. When you get stuck in figuring out what God is saying in a passage, try these sites.
Finally, pray for yourself and your Divine relationship. Ask God to renew your desire to meet each and everyday. Before you know it you will crave that time with Him and it will no longer be hard to find, it will miraculously appear! (:
In our summer devotional series we've talked about guidelines for choosing our devotional area that works with your family's schedule.
We've looked at ways to dress it up so it becomes inviting and personal. And we gave a couple ideas to jump start your imagination allowing you to turn that area into something uniquely yours ~ a place to find God's presence and rest.
We want it to be a retreat, a spot where our heart longs to be to connect with God. It becomes our hideaway, that place of rest where everything except Him ~ and blessed quiet ~ fades away.
Now, we'll look at how to find time in our daily schedules for a devotional routine. We need to examine our daily schedules. There’s no doubt that our lives are head-spinning busy, but God is bigger than that busyness. So, let's look at some common time-grabbers:
Charting your daily time spent on social media and watching TV can give you huge options for recovering valuable minutes for that much-needed devotional time.
Just a couple thoughts on why is it important to be in charge of your schedule. Simply, as a wife and mother you are often the first-responder. You need to be prepared spiritually with wisdom and strength to respond to those needs of your spouse, children, and of course, your own needs as well. These are freely available to us when we spend regular time with God.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1.5
We are each given a numbered amount of days. Thinking we can always have God time tomorrow might not work out. Each day is a gift and IMPORTANT for how it challenges ~ and for what it teaches.
“Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.” Ps 39.4
Spending time with God is the absolute biggest return we can hope for. It makes the difference in how we function and succeed. This is how God designed us. I know, finding time is difficult, but try it. I'm right on this one!
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