A Bold Prayer

Lord, I have heard of your fame;bold prayer little girl and mom
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
   in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2; NIV)

The church we recently started attending adopted the above verse as its mission statement. My husband and I participated in an introductory class offered by the church that explains its history and values, and our small table group was asked to discuss our reactions to the Habakkuk verse. The boldness of the prophet prayer, which, in my opinion, borders on audacity, impresses me tremendously. Habakkuk had the nerve to ask God to perform the same types of miracles he performed during the Jews’ captivity in Egypt — bringing pestilence and plagues upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians, freeing the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, parting the sea, and destroying Pharaoh and his army.

I love Habakkuk’s heart! He prayed boldly and confidently to the Lord. The prophet knew what God was capable of, and he wasn’t afraid to ask the Lord to repeat his awesome deeds in the prophet’s day. Habakkuk also knew that all of the glory would be God’s as no human power could possibly take credit for these wonders. And now my church prays for God to again renew his deeds in our time. Sure, maybe thousands of years ago God performed miracles on a monumental scale quite regularly, but in today’s day and age?

The Bible gives us another example of a bold prayer. This popular prayer is often referred to as the Prayer of Jabez:

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. (1 Chronicles 4:10)

“Bless me and enlarge my territory!” Who among us would dare to make such a grand request in the modern day? Jabez could make this bold prayer because he recognized that God wanted to bless him. In addition, Jabez wanted to increase his sphere of influence not only for himself but for God, and he wanted God to be on his side. What about us? Do we recognize that God wants to bless us? Do we pray because we want God to be on our side, and because we want to grow his kingdom?

Scripture clearly demonstrates that God is ready and waiting to hear our prayers and grant our bold requests. As Jesus explained:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:12-14; emphasis mine)

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:21-22: emphasis mine)

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:7-8; emphasis mine)

The Lord encourages us to pray boldly. God wants to be glorified, and it honors God and bears witness to him when our lives produce fruit. Why, then, “since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19) shouldn’t we “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16; KJV)? We need only to pray in faith, according to God’s will, and in Jesus’s name.

Warrior, if you’re like me, perhaps you haven’t given God the credit he deserves. Maybe you’ve underestimated him, or you haven’t felt worthy of asking for a demonstration of his power. No more! Let’s begin right now to pray boldly and fearlessly! For example, I am going to change my wimpy prayer of “Lord, I’m so tired. Please give me strength to get through this day” to “Lord, I pray for a complete and total healing from Fibromyalgia”. And instead of saying “God, if you see any use for me, please let me help just one person”, I might pray “Lord, use me in a powerful way to serve others and to draw them closer to you”. And rather than simply asking God to protect my family, I will pray that the Lord “rebuke Satan and his minions, and allow nothing but the Spirit of God and the love of God upon them”. See the difference?

My bold prayer for you is that the Lord’s power will be evident in your life, that his answers to your prayers would richly bless you but also give him glory and further his kingdom.

The Lord is proving to me daily that he is more than I could ever dream or understand. Enjoy More Than You Think I Am by Danny Gokey!

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Stay Tuned…

Evil is definitely not one of my favorite subjects to talk about. Nevertheless, the topic has been weighing very heavily on me of late. I feel inundated and surrounded by its effects! In my almost forty-seven years of life, I’ve observed the darkness within man’s heart on a variety of levels. Global scale evil results in wars, genocides and atrocities. Terrorism produces the death of innocent civilians by suicide bombers, the downing of passenger planes, and the murder of people in shopping malls, movie theaters, schools and restaurants. The entire world witnesses these events, but the evil that pervades countries and groups also exists in individual hearts. Many wicked deeds are performed on a much smaller scale or privately – children are molested and abused in the secret places of their own homes or even in their churches, married people solicit prostitutes, individuals devastate the lives of others by stealing their identity, etc.

Most folks would much rather talk about God’s love and mercy than about sin and God’s wrath. Nevertheless, discussion about evil and its consequences is necessary and serious – deadly serious, in fact, to God.

Several months ago, I began reading J.I. Packer’s book Knowing God, but I put my reading on hold until I could catch up on some other projects. I finally picked up the book again this week, and, lo and behold, the chapter I had left my bookmark in was entitled, “The Wrath of God”. I find that God leads me to read or hear something exactly when my heart is open to receive it, and this was definitely one of those times. As I watched the news for the latest updates on the terrorist attacks in Paris, I was talking with God and expressing my concern to him about the evil that is so prevalent in our world. I was reminded in Packer’s book about God’s wrath toward his enemies and how, once his wrath is unleashed, his foes will not escape unpunished.

In the Bible, the prophet Nahum warns of the LORD’s coming anger against the wicked city of Nineveh:

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him. The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, but with an overwhelming flood he will make an end of [Nineveh]; he will pursue his foes into darkness. Whatever they plot against the LORD he will bring to an end; trouble will not come a second time. (Nahum 1:2-9; NIV; emphasis mine)

In these verses, God both comforts the good people and strikes terror into the hearts of the evil. Make no mistake about it: Our God is a just and righteous God! We may not always see justice served in our lifetime, but rest assured everyone will one day stand in judgement. Paul emphasized this truth in his second letter to the Thessalonians:

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.  (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; emphasis mine)

It may sound like I’m taking comfort in the knowledge that the wicked will be punished. On the contrary, I do not revel in the punishment and destruction of others. Instead, I feel deep, deep sadness for those who never come to know God in this life. The reality that the only way some will ever know and experience God will be through his wrath grieves me. For this reason, I pray for God to soften the hearts of men, and replace the evil that lies therein with a true repentance and a desire for his love and mercy.

Though I know God and try to obey him, I recognize that evil and wickedness also reside in my own heart. It may not always manifest itself in blatant outward actions such as murder or theft. But as the Lord who searches me and knows my heart can attest, the ugliness within me manages to creep up regularly. For this reason, I must focus not so much on the evil in others but on what needs to be changed in me.

If you are as appalled and disgusted by the wickedness in the world as I am, take comfort in knowing that the Lord will have the final say. Stay tuned, beloved Warriors! God is mercifully slow to anger, but “the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished”. When you feel distraught and frightened by the wickedness of man, remember that “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him”.

There is Power in the Name of Jesus, Friends!

Reference:
Packer, J.I. Knowing God. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1973.

Who is in the Battle with You?

Who is in the battle with you imageThere is nothing like a tragedy in our lives to reveal who really cares about us and who we can depend on. When I hit bottom with depression and subsequently got sick, I was too tired to participate in all of the activities I was previously involved in. Therefore, I wasn’t attending events where I would regularly touch base with many of the people in my life at the time. This change alone eliminated many relationships, but I accepted it because many of those friendships were largely superficial anyway. It became clear that I would only have energy to devote to the most important and cherished people in my life, and this presented some difficulty. I was scared to let go of many people, but I had read in a book about living with Fibromyalgia that the people that really matter and who are supposed to be in your life will stick around and put in the effort it takes to stay close.

God is so good and faithful to give us what we need when we need it! When my husband and I first started attending our current church after many years at our previous church, I have to admit I had a very difficult time making the transition. My husband Chris was welcomed into the community of men with open arms while I stood by feeling like an outsider. Chris was asked to be an elder, and I saw myself as an invisible passenger just along for the ride. The elders-to-be attended monthly meetings, and the men were asked to bring their wives. At one of the meetings, our pastor asked me not to leave before the group could pray for me. As the meeting drew to a close and the group asked for prayer requests, my pastor brought up my health situation. Everyone then gathered around me and laid hands on me. One of the elders anointed me with oil, and the group prayed over me. After that, my attitude toward the church completely changed. The love of Christ as shown through the actions of others won me over! I have since become friends with a few of the elders’ wives, and I treasure our shared faith and that we pray for each other.

Over the years, it’s also been a blessing to have a Bible study group that cares about me and knows what’s going on in my life. I need the support of fellow believers to help me through my battles. It’s also an honor for me to be there for others both in their times of sorrow and in their joys. The Bible teaches that confession and prayer with other believers has healing power. In addition, we remain accountable by praying for one another and sharing where we are in our faith journey. There is power in the prayers of true believers praying for each other:

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.

If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:13-16)

Scripture also encourages us to meet together regularly, as the church needs its members to lift one another up and keep each other from falling into sin:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Furthermore, Scripture declares that believers are much stronger together than they are on their own:

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

The Bible cautions us to choose who we will walk through life with carefully. It’s important to search for people who are wise, who will offer us love and support and who will help us grow in our relationship with God:

Walk with the wise and become wise,
    for a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverbs 13:20)

Fellow Warriors, may we take comfort in knowing we are not in the battle all by ourselves, but rather that we are all in this together. Let us both receive and give Jesus’ love for us through one another. I pray that our hearts would be open to share the amazing gift of fellowship with another lost, lonely and battle-weary soul who may desperately need to experience God’s love today.

Enjoy “No Man is an Island” by Tenth Avenue North!

Relentless

bible-imageWhen my pastor introduced his message by holding up His Bible and saying that the collection of 66 books was the story of God’s desire for and pursuit of relationship with us, it wasn’t news to me. Intellectually, I already understood that the Lord desires fellowship with His children. But for some reason that particular Sunday morning, the pastor’s reminder of this truth made the long 18” journey from my head to my heart. The Bible is not about man’s desire for fellowship with God, but rather it’s the other way around. God’s Word is about His never-ending, unrelenting love for us and His longing for relationship with us. It struck me how incredibly amazing it is that the Creator of the Universe would do whatever it takes to be with little old me!

God demonstrates His relentless pursuit of relationship with His people all throughout the Bible. Early on, the Lord gives the law that will help His people stay faithful and blameless before Him, tabernacles with them and guides them to the Promised Land. Then He takes His people back over and over again even after they turn from Him, worship other gods and ignore the warnings of the prophets. Finally, the Father’s love for us culminates in sending His own son to die for us so that those of us who believe on Him will experience the joy of spending eternity with Him.

It’s hard to imagine that given mankind’s history of rejecting God, His laws, His prophets and even His own son, He readily forgives us. Rather than cursing and destroying those who beat, humiliated and murdered Him, Jesus said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34, ESV). Jesus not only forgave us but also loved us even as He was dying on a cross. As Scripture explains, ”God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Despite man’s stumbling and miserable failure, when we sin all God asks for is sincere repentance and His arms open wide to us once again:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9, NIV)

I praise God for the mercy, grace and long suffering He has shown me! During my years of drinking and partying when I turned my back on the Lord, I still sensed His Spirit upon me, convicting me and calling me to return to His loving arms until at last I relented. When I look back on my walk with God thus far, it is clear that He has never left me. Even when I wasn’t walking with Him but rather running in the opposite direction, He still protected me and gave me His grace.

I often pray that the Lord would never let me go back to being the person I once was. I pray for Him to never leave me and to always have His hand upon me because I don’t trust myself to stay on the straight and narrow on my own. The Lord is faithful in this, for as He promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). What’s interesting to me now is that there are times I wish His pull on my heart wouldn’t be so strong. When I don’t want to do something He wants me to do or when I’m considering doing something that requires a leap of faith and I want to forget about it, He still won’t let me go. Nevertheless, even when I drag my feet He is patient with me and gives me yet another chance to do what He’s calling me to do.

Beloved Warriors, we serve an awesome God who would do anything to be in relationship with you! Will you have Him? Maybe you’re in need of forgiveness, or you just need a reminder that despite any evidence to the contrary you have a Maker who loves you and who will never EVER stop loving you. If so, I pray that you’ll once again forgive me for borrowing my prayer for you from the Apostle Paul:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19, NIV; emphasis mine).

Along with the band Big Daddy Weave, I’m Overwhelmed by Him!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6oxXwRWFTo