On the Waves: When Jesus doesn’t do what you think He’s going to do

Great faith chooses to get out of the boat.

Great faith chooses to walk toward Jesus and believe Him when He calls.

Great faith keeps her eyes fixed on His eyes and looks full in His wonderful face.

Great faith chooses HIM regardless of the temptations that are swelling all around her.

Reality is that life outside the boat can be flat-out scary.  Minimally, it can be uncomfortable.  All manner of temptation lurks attempting to take your focus off of Jesus.

  1. temptation to look around at the progressive waves of your own flesh and Satan’s attacks ready to take you under, one after another…after another

  2. temptation to consider the actual depth of the waters you find yourself in

  3. temptation to know the vast limitations of your own swimming skills and your general lack of endurance

  4. temptation to lean on your own understanding that walking on water is, in fact, not humanly possible

  5. temptation to think that you can do this water-walking alone or that your way is perhaps better than His, which is blatantly preposterous given points 1-4, and yet remains a temptation never-the-less

  6. temptation to hear the safety of the boat beckoning you to get back in for goodness sake and dry off and get warm, are you crazy? who does this?  protect yourself!!!

  7. temptation to tell Him “no thanks” the next time He invites you out, this water-walking of great faith is fine for someone who is stronger than you or knows more than you or actually has the mustard seed’s worth of faith He asks in order to see some kind of miracle like this

But, Jesus.  But, JESUS.  BUT, JESUS!!!  Praise His Name!

He never leaves.  He always rescues.

I don’t believe I’ve ever been out on the deep waters of faith like I am right now.  Certainly not this deep.  I don’t recall having an opportunity to believe for the impossible as much as I have this year.  The first 3 months of 2016 were smooth sailing, quite honestly.  Not many waves at all, it wasn’t very scary and quite frankly I had literally received every answer I wanted from the Lord for some pretty bold requests. Particularly, I had been tracking dead-on with my expectations being very high in what I knew God could do and expectations very low as to the “how” He might do them.  But, last night was the 2nd time in 2 weeks that I got a neti-pot style cleansing of the sinuses with salty sea water (great analogy brought to you from last week’s episode of Living Proof with Beth Moore)…because last night I took my eyes off my Savior for a second and looked fully at what my human brain was willing to wrap around.  This is not an effective tactic when you are out on the water.  Just ask Peter.  It’s always better to recognize Who Jesus is, and stick with Him.

In this particular situation last night though, I saw only what did Jesus not do instead of what He did…even though He performed a total miracle.  Have you ever done that?

Then, I sulled up.  I don’t know if that’s actually a word, y’all. But that’s what my Dad says when a horse he’s training stops responding to him; basically the horse goes into lockdown about to throw a fit.  It’s the same word we use in our family when people act like that (finger pointing directly at ME).  All in my heart.  Every bit of it.  Outwardly, I was saying words of thanksgiving and gratitude and acting how I was supposed to act when God comes through in such a massive way.

Mere words never fool God though.  He doesn’t care all that much about our “external” looking good, does He?  He tells us over and over and over again it’s the condition of our heart that He’s concerned about.  And when I woke up this morning after partially repenting and knowing my heart was not right, He was right there inviting me into full-on repentance.

I was not the 1 leper who came running to Jesus’ feet when I realized what He had done like I should have been (Luke 17).  He deserved massive praise from me!  He deserved tears of joy and my heart to have been leaping out of my chest in thanksgiving!  But, that’s not what He received from me last night.  The sin of pride crept in mightily underneath me and enveloped me and brought me crashing down hard, as pride always does (Proverbs 16:18).  And no one else knows.  Only me and my patient, kind, Holy and wonder-working God.  (Well, now y’all do…but we are to confess our sin to one another, right? (James 5:16))

I was offended that He didn’t perform the miracle I was believing Him for in the way that I expected it.  I was annoyed in my spirit that His method of healing was different than I had made my mind up that it would be.  He didn’t follow my orders.

My hands literally shake even typing those 5 words.  But, it’s the truth.  That’s why I withheld my praise.

I ask the Lord continually not to let my flesh get away with anything displeasing to Him.  And, He didn’t.  He didn’t let me stay hard-hearted very long, praise His Name.  He didn’t have to beat my wayward thinking out of me, either. (Insert memories of stubborn horses who have not been so fortunate).  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:11 ESV).  He always knows what we need.  He’s a good, good Father that way, isn’t He?

As Romans 2:4 says, it was His kindness that led me to repentance.  And as only God can, He timed it where I had to read Matthew chapter 11 out loud to my family in our nightly Bible reading when all of this battle was happening in my heart.  It’s the story of when John the Baptist is in prison asking if Jesus really is the One.  It’s when John is sitting there thinking, “There is NO WAY if Jesus is who He says He is that He’s leaving me in this prison!”  And you know what Jesus sent John’s disciples to go back and tell him…

Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.  (Matthew 11:6 ESV)

He loved John so much.  But, Jesus didn’t do what John expected.  John had a really hard outcome awaiting him and he had to trust that Jesus was who He said He was.  And Jesus wanted John to experience blessing.

Offense never brings blessing.

Humility before and trust in Jesus always does.

And when I woke up this morning I heard the Lord say to my heart, “Look fully into my face.”  In other words, He was asking me to look at His eyes.  Just like I try to get my sulled-up 4 year old to do when he’s upset so that I can speak truth and life to him.  Just like Jesus was doing for John the Baptist.

He’s so kind.

He knows that if we will look at His eyes our feet will not sink into the ocean of doubt surrounding us.

And you know what is starting to well up in my heart right now…12 hours after my highly disappointing water-walking performance?  I’m starting to feel Him call me out there again with Him.

He has brought me way too far to turn back now.  I’m out here with Him.  Come what feels like hell or at least high waters, I am His.  The truth is that the gates of hell actually will NOT prevail!  It can feel like it, it can look like it, and it can seem like all of it is breaking loose in your circumstances in front of everyone or maybe only in your own heart where no one else knows.  When Jesus said, “It is finished.” He meant it, and Satan knows it.  Our battle with flesh and enemy are not over just yet, but we can rest assured that we are overcomers because we belong to Jesus!

And He is always good.  And He never leaves us.  And He never forsakes.

He loves us, as my little boy says, “Really MUCH!”

He is an ‘again’ kind of God.  He delights when we humble ourselves and realize how much we need Him.  I had to realize that I have NO idea what all He did in this situation.  Someday I will find out, and He will put an exclamation point on His sovereignty.  And, I’ll rejoice again that He did not leave me in my pit of haughtiness.

We know that it’s impossible to please Him without faith.  And I want to please Him.  I want to hear Him say well-done.  I know you do, too.

We want to look full in His wonderful face because it’s that same face that bowed before the Father and sweat drops of blood because His own will was not matching up with the Father’s at the moment.  He was willing to deny Himself and take up His cross so that you and I could get out of the boat with Him one more time in great faith.

He’s trustworthy for a million reasons…mostly because He’s been where I am, but He didn’t fail.  He has felt all the emotions I have but didn’t sin.  He’s felt more pain than I’ll ever imagine, and walked through more heart-breaking situations with His children over millennia and it didn’t keep Him from radically leaving His throne to rescue the 1.

I want to be more like Him.

Whatever He says, I’m in again.  Wherever He leads, I’m going.

Whatever He is doing in the Earth and has a mind to invite me to walk with Him…I’m all in with Jesus.

And it’s not because I trust me.

I don’t.

I trust Him.

 

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All to Him I Owe…

If You didn’t do what You did, I would not be able to live.

If you didn’t do what You did, I’d be lost as I could be.

I’d be blind, begging, dying.  And all without hope.

Lost, blind, begging and dying in a lost and dying world…

BUT, The Cross.

BUT, our Good Good Father saw fit to make a way so it didn’t have to be that way.

BUT, YOU, my precious Savior.  The perfect, spotless, blemish-less, sinless Lamb Who laid down Your life of Your own accord.

You went.  You suffered inconceivable pain and shame and separation for me.  For them.  For all of us.

Every act foretold in days long, long past.  Every detail fulfilled.

From the senseless hatred that drove men to kill.

To Your brilliant mercy & grace that would tear the veil of separation once and for all.

All of this, SO THAT sinners could be saved.

…like me

…like you

…like the very high priests and religious leaders who offered Him up on false charges that day

…the same crowd members on Sunday, who were pleased to shout Hosanna waving palm branches with one hand while the other launched their cloaks into the dust for Him, by Friday screaming “Crucify Him” with all the other sheep who had gone astray.

…like every single one of us

We were all lost and dying without hope.  Lost and dying and deserving hell.

BUT, Jesus.

BUT, You!  Yeshua, our Hamashiach – You didn’t back down.

You didn’t flee or crack under the pressure.

Quite literally the weight of the entire world for all of eternity was on You.

And you bore our sin.  On purpose.

The enemy really thought he had you.  He thought he won.  But, my oh my, what a surprise  he must have had when You got up!

The victory that I get to claim is the one that Jesus won.  And He gave it to me.

Is that not the greatest and most unfair and excessive gift in all of time?

Life for death.  And a crown of righteousness for my head.

Not only that, but He covered me in a robe of righteousness.  He exchanged and bore my sinful nature so that I can be adorned in jewels; a bride pure and spotless.

He took my tears and gave me joy.  He took my evil and made me holy.

In Him, my regret becomes hope.  My ugly past is redeemed for a beautiful future.

He took my spirit of heaviness and gave me a mantle of praise.

My broken heart was made new.

My broken mind was made pure.

My broken spirit was made whole.

He got wounded and I got healed.

And I think I owe Him my life.

I really do.  I look at all of that, and as I write these words it just makes total sense to me that my life is, in fact, NOT my own.

He sought me and then He bought me with His redeeming blood.

And pouring my life out for Him, holding nothing back from Him, living to obey and follow and listen for His voice every second of every single day is actually what makes sense to me.

If Jesus paid it all, then ALL to Him I owe.

He’s worthy…and He’s worth it!!!

He is risen, we are free and I am rejoicing!  Happy Resurrection Sunday!!!

Pondering the Palms

I suppose I cannot remember the last time that a poem rolled off my heart through my fingers onto a keyboard for the page.  But it happened last night, as I considered what Palm Sunday means.  The preparation, the knowing His time had come.  Realizing how many times in the Gospels that Jesus had said His time had not yet come.  But, when He told His boys to find that donkey colt that day, He knew it was upon Him.

And He went.

He rode into the city of Jerusalem.

He wept over the unbelief.

He did the thing all the way.

He held nothing back.

Jesus, what a Savior.  Jesus, what a Servant.  Jesus, what a King.                                                                                                   So deserving of our worship.

He is so worth every bit of our lives. He is so worthy of every second of time, every drop of sweat, every difficult day, every joy, and every victory.  Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain for you and for me.  Willingly is how He went. That is what inspired these words of request, repentance, and affirmation from my spirit last night. I thought I’d share them with y’all.  Happy Holy Week ->

Lord, I need the dreams and the visions, The passionate fervor for Your Name.

There is so much convolution in “The making Your Name famous
Oh while we’re at it, Lord, could we make mine famous, too?”

Oh Jesus,
To understand the meaning of servanthood,
Oh to grasp the washing of the feet,
The humbling of the self,
The living of the love,
And the dying of the pride.

Oh to fully realize the genius of the You inside of me,
And to trust that she is living out the purpose
And the mission of The THEE, instead of the me.

Oh the joy and
The passion and
The gravity of it all,
When fully all surrendered to The Sweet Redeemer of us all.

All to Jesus, I surrender!
All to Him I freely give!
May these words describe my reality, as day by day I live.

Come & stir me up Lord Jesus!
Shake me every way but loose.
Come ignite my heart afire in a life lived all for You.

Amen.

Spread It Out Before The Lord: a look @ 2 Kings 18-19

There is an account in the Old Testament that I return to repeatedly as I walk with Jesus. The Lord has prompted me to use it in my prayer life time and again when life gets hard, overwhelming, or when I feel the enemy is threatening me in certain contexts. What compelled me to share this with you today is that I actually experienced it again yesterday morning – right before church I had gone into the prayer room to spread some things before the Lord and pray, and during the time I was pouring my heart out to Jesus, He sent someone with an answer to what I had just asked Him!

I want to pull out a few things from 2 Kings 18-19, because I believe we need to know about this passage and put its truth to immediate use in our lives! Let’s begin with King Hezekiah, we are introduced to him in 2 Kings 18.  The year is 701 B.C., Hezekiah is 25 years old when he takes over as King of Judah in Jerusalem, he reigned there for 29 years, he removed all the pagan shrines and rid Judah of anything the people had begun to worship other than the Living God. This is what God’s Word says about him starting in verse 5:

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses. So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute.

But, in Hezekiah’s 14th year of reign, the evil King of Assyria, named Sennacherib, broke into the walled cities of Judah and overtook them, which sent Hezekiah into a tailspin of sorts. He freaked out. This King Sennacherib had conquered basically every other kingdom around, and now he had begun conquering the cities in King Hezekiah’s kingdom, even the ones that were supposed to be fortified and protected! So, Hezekiah completely bails on his strong plan not to pay this evil king any tribute (v. 7)…he buckles under the enemy’s pressure. Ever been there? It was easy for Hezekiah to refuse to pay the evil King of Assyria all the loot he demanded when there was no actual threat, but when rubber met the road, or rather when enemy chariot wheels hit the soil of Judah – King Hezekiah’s great strength of will didn’t stay so strong. He caved and started gathering all the gold and silver he could find in an attempt to ward off the attack of Assyria on Jerusalem.  (v. 14-16)

I wonder if those words have rung true in your life somehow? A commitment you made, then in the heat of the moment that commitment seemed to fly out the window. An area where you believed you heard God say something, but your circumstances are so far from it you can’t quite make sense of it? A relationship that you thought would never be threatened and now you stand in danger of losing everything you thought was yours forever? We have a very real enemy. He means to steal, kill, and destroy. Just like the evil King of Assyria, our enemy threatens and lies and uses every means possible to defame the Name of our God and cause us to retreat into serving anything or anyone but the One True God.

As we return to our narrative, King Sennacherib is sending messengers to make sure that King Hezekiah remains fearfully under his mind-control.  He spews threats and atrocious statements against God for the remainder of chapter 18. Let me give you a quick sampling of some of the Assyrian messenger’s malicious and vile statements:

  • 19b “This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? 20 Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me?

  • 24 With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariots and charioteers? 25 What’s more, do you think we have invaded your land without the Lord’s direction? The Lord himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’”

So, now, you have this messenger sending these statements of hate and intimidation to King Hezekiah, and they even have the nerve to say it’s The Lord Who is instructing their evil invasion! Isn’t that just like the enemy to twist reality into such a lie that he would even want us to believe it is God Himself causing all the destruction and strife.  There is no doubt that God allows trials, and we will discuss that momentarily, but the rock we must stand on is the fact that God’s heart toward us is love.  That is exactly why we MUST get to know the character and heart of God.

Our God is the God of provision, He builds up what is good, He tears down what is useless or destructive in our lives, He calms our fears and sings over us with joy, He is the lover of our souls, He sees us, and He defends us by His mighty right hand. The God we serve is unchanging yesterday, today, and forever. Indeed, what an awesome and mighty and Holy God we serve. But, our enemy does not want us believing or relying on any of those truths about The Lord, does he? Let’s skip down to verse 31 now, where the threats and lies just keep coming from Sennacherib’s messengers. This time they are addressing not only King Hezekiah’s representatives, but the very people of Jerusalem:

  • 31 “Don’t listen to Hezekiah! These are the terms the king of Assyria is offering: Make peace with me—open the gates and come out. Then each of you can continue eating from your own grapevine and fig tree and drinking from your own well. 32 Then I will arrange to take you to another land like this one—a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards, olive groves and honey. Choose life instead of death!  “Don’t listen to Hezekiah when he tries to mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’

  • 35 What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?”

When is the last time Satan tempted you with a lie that sounded really, really appealing? It is the way of the devil to arrange his temptation in a way that it would seem he is offering LIFE when he is packaging death and destruction up really nice so that we never even question what is actually inside. When I read these verses immediately it reminded me of when Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted for 40 days. Luke 4:5-8

Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.’”

Satan always has a counterfeit for God’s best. Always. If he can get us to look at what we don’t have, and offer it to us on a platter laced with death and destruction, he will do anything to divert our attention away from the truth and bait us into taking the poison.  It was the original temptation he used against humanity in Genesis 3.  This is exactly the kind of temptation the Assyrians were offering to the King Hezekiah’s people. And exactly the kind of temptation the devil offers us…just for example:

If you are single, “just compromise a little on what God’s best is and I’ll give you someone with money who can take care of you for the rest of your life, he’s handsome, nevermind the fact that he doesn’t know God or care to at this point, look at all he has to offer you”…

If you are married, “you don’t deserve this, you didn’t sign up for this, you need more and you need someone better, you can have someone younger, more beautiful, more sensitive to your needs, you can just scratch this whole thing and start over, everyone does it”…

Have you ever heard those kinds of lies in your head?  If not in the area of relationships, what about other parts of your life? It is your enemy who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy.  Undoubtedly, that is all the Assyrians had in mind for Jerusalem. And without doubt, that is all Satan has in mind for you and I.  But, praise His Name, the One True God has other plans for us! He has plans that are for our good, to give us a hope and a future!

Intelligently, when he was faced with these threats and lies, Hezekiah sent for wise counsel from a man he trusts.  Now we’re in 2 Kings 19: 5-7:

After King Hezekiah’s officials delivered the king’s message to Isaiah, the prophet replied, “Say to your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.’”

No matter how oppressed we are by the enemy’s lies or intimidation, God is our defender. What He says goes. Every. Single. Time. We have to understand that the devil is not the opposite of God, he is not the “bad guy” and The Lord is the “good guy.” Make no mistake, The Lord our God reigns. There is no comparison of power.  Every inch of ground the enemy gains is only ground that God allows him. God may allow him to sift us as wheat, but every single time it is for our good and for his great glory.  Back in Luke 4, it says the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And by the Word of God, Jesus destroyed the devil’s attempt to bring Him down.  I’m also thinking of what Jesus told Peter in Luke 22:

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

I’m thinking of Abraham in Genesis 22, where his faith is tested by God.

15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you.

Trials are rarely enjoyable at the time, but The Lord absolutely has purpose in allowing us to be tested and tried. 1 Peter 1:7

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

In our account of King Hezekiah, we are not yet done with the threats from the enemy. Sennacherib makes one last attempt to scare Hezekiah into surrendering. He sends a letter that pens example after example of all the Kingdoms whom have fallen at his hand, over and over again he gives Hezekiah examples and reasons why he should give up the fight, because after all – why in all the earth would Hezekiah stand up to an enemy who is so strong and so devastating?  (2 Kings 19:10-13) Now – the next verse is what just captures my heart. This one is what I started off the post today telling you that I have used as a pattern in my prayer life so often, even as recent as yesterday. Oh – I cannot wait for you to hear what King Hezekiah does!

2 Kings 19:14

14 After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord.

There you have it. I hope you’re not disappointed.  Perhaps you feel this is anticlimactic, but I beg to differ!  Think about what this means! I want to give you points we can take from Hezekiah’s decision. Regardless of threat. Regardless of lie. Regardless of what pawn Satan is using to discourage you in your life right now. Here is what we can do:

  1. Get to a quiet place with God.

  2. Spread it out before Him. 

I am an avid prayer journal-er (that is obviously my own word, but you get my point). I journal my prayers. I have an entire shelf full of prayer journals starting from when I was about 18 years old. If you looked through them, you could find time after time that I have made a list of all the issues I need to spread before the Lord. When you put pen to paper with your troubles and trials, do exactly what King Hezekiah did. He met with the Lord all by himself, and he essentially said to God in a demonstrative way, “Here it is, Lord!  Look at what the enemy is saying, Lord, look at where his lies are trying to trip me up. I want you to see, Jesus, this is where I need help, I am admitting my desperate need for You to intervene.”

I am telling you now that Jesus Christ is already interceding for you, and the Holy Spirit is interceding even when we have no idea what to pray for.  It is not as if He needs us to clue Him in! But, there is power in you demonstrating your need before the Lord. There is power in our lives when comparatively, we can see what the threat is vs. Who our God is. There is no match or comparison! And finally, the third thing I see here:

  1. Pray with some authority to the One and Only God, through Jesus Christ your Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hezekiah opens his mouth and takes this straight to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords:

15 And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: “O Lord, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. 16 Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God. 17 “It is true, Lord, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. 18 And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. 19 Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”

I love King Hezekiah’s prayer. He acknowledges Who God is. He acknowledges God’s power. He appeals for The Lord Himself to listen to and see the enemy’s defiance of God. He admits and understands the reality of the situation at hand. He asks God to intervene for the sake of and the great glory of His Name. Notice that Hezekiah does not come asking for God to protect Hezekiah’s name.  There is no self-driven, self-protective, self-centeredness in his prayer. He doesn’t even see Sennacherib’s threat as toward himself, he sees it for what it is – a threat against God. You see, Hezekiah realized that it was not about him.  Maybe we should read that sentence again.  You see, Hezekiah realized that it was not about him.

Oh yes, he was definitely the one the threats were hurled toward, and he totally had to be the one to take action. But in reality, his enemy was not Sennacherib – it was satan. And the object of the threat was not him – it was God. I wonder who we may “think” is our enemy?  An employer? A former friend? A family member whom you can no longer trust? A credit card company? A prodigal child? A thief? An ex-spouse? A government entity?  A terrorist group named ISIS? Ephesians 6:12 tells us:

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Be encouraged – listen to Colossians 1:15-16

15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.  He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.  Everything was created through Him and for Him.

Regardless of what our enemy wants us to believe, he has NO authority in our lives. He is no match for God.  And wherever he seems to be winning or gaining ground, you stand firm in the Power of the Cross. You spread it out before the Lord Your God and receive the victory He already won for you on Calvary! We are going to finish with the beautiful, amazing truth in Romans 8:31-39. Drink this in as total refreshment for your soul today. Just as King Hezekiah came through an overwhelming situation – you can, too!  The God we serve is the same God he served.  Your enemy is real, but his power has been broken. Your victory in Jesus is real! He is worthy, y’all, and He is so worth fighting the good fight!

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen!

Let 2015 Be the Year you Have because You Ask

When I started this blog in March 2014, I really felt the Lord impress on my heart that I was only to write what He was teaching me, nothing more nothing less.  Not compelled to meet any deadline or any quota, but to listen to what the Spirit was saying and to respond by writing it.  I have felt like He was teaching me so much in November and December that I could not boil it all down to 1 subject.  Then there were days that I felt so dry that nothing was coming, even when I read His word or attempted to journal.  I love how we go through seasons with the Lord, and in each one, though some are hard and some are sweet…He never changes.  He is always good.

Speaking of His goodness, for the past 5 years the Lord has done something really astounding for me on or around January 1st. He has either given me a specific scripture or a word for the upcoming year. Last year was John 4:23 and teaching me to become a true worshipper. Throughout the entire year I was able to hold on to that word, and view my circumstances through the lens of Him lovingly leading me to worship Him in spirit and in truth as John 4:23 says.  On January 1st of 2013, I woke up with the words to a Kari Jobe song ringing in my head over and over and over, “Nothing is impossible with You” followed by the words, “With You all things are possible.”  And that was my Word for 2013.  2012 had to do with radical giving, etc…you probably get the idea.  And His Word for 2015 I received yesterday – “Do not let 2015 be the year where you do not have because you do not ask.”  In other words, I feel Him pressing in on my prayer life, pressing in for intimacy that I’ve never had before, pressing in to spark something in my spirit that He really did mean what He said in James 4 and Matthew 7 about asking Him.

I want to dive into those passages and some others on prayer in the coming weeks here on Living Amplified, but today I want to share an experience I have had with God.  I want to testify of His Goodness.  And first, I want to ask you – where are you in your prayer life?  Are you dry?  Are you lacking something?  Well, you are certainly not alone!

Prayer seems elusive to me at times. I get in ruts of praying certain things, and asking Him for much, much less than He is able to do. At the same time, I feel strongly that I have the freedom to ask Him anything, and confident that He is good and nothing is impossible with Him – and yet I know I hold back sometimes. Maybe it is because I’m afraid He’ll say no, maybe it’s because I don’t want to admit my need in a certain area, and maybe it is because I have never seen what I am asking for (especially in the realm of massive culture-changing revival).  Lord, help to to believe even if I do not see!  But, often I know it is because I get lazy. Like this spirit of laziness comes over me and I begin to believe the lie that I am just staying silent on an issue because “He knows anyway.” And He does know. And He still wants me to engage in prayer.

It astounds me that Jesus is interceding and so is the Spirit, and what really drives my heart is that I want to know Him well enough that I can come praying what He is praying. But, to pray believing and to pray in His will is to know Him through His Word and through experience. It takes time to develop that kind of closeness with the Lord, and there is no better time than now to press in to Him!

Good. Night. This is so huge!!!

If you and I do not open our mouths and talk things out with Him, or write them out in a prayer journal (or the note section on your phone if necessary) – I am convinced that we will miss His clarity and vision and answers in many ways. He is a personal God. There is so much we need to receive and so much that He wants to give!  He see us, and He hears us, and He knows us…

Why, then, are we content to stay silent with Him?

And believe me – I know there are times to be silent in His presence so that we can hear Him speak to our hearts…but too often I know we stay silent for the wrong reasons.

Prayer is our submission to Him, it’s our admission that we are in such desperate need of Him to come through for us.  It’s a meeting with Him constantly throughout the day – constantly seeking – constantly asking – constantly worshiping – constantly trusting and communing – constantly desiring to be aware of His presence no matter how we feel – no matter what our circumstances.

Matthew 7:7-9 is Jesus talking directly to us about prayer:

Effective Prayer

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

I have been reading a new book on prayer by Timothy Keller. I first heard about it on John Piper’s blog www.DesiringGod.org.  I love so many quotes from this book already. It is called Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God.  The truth of his words echoed in my ears because it juxtaposed what God was calling me to do last year (worship Him) and this year (ask Him):

“Seasons of dryness can return for a variety of causes. We don’t spend a discrete amount of time in dryness until we break through permanently into joy and feeling. Instead, the vivid reorientation of mind, and the overall sense of God on the heart, comes more frequently and sometimes in startling ways—interspersed with times of struggle and even absence. Nevertheless, the pursuit of God in prayer eventually bears fruit, because God seeks for us to worship him (John 4:23) and because prayer is so infinitely rich and wondrous.”

Excerpt From: Timothy Keller. “Prayer.”

You might need to read that again.  I’ve read it no less than 20 times in the past couple days and I keep mining gems out of that collaboration of words.

On New Year’s Eve, my best friend, Julia and I experienced a vivid reorientation of mind, an impressive sense of God in our hearts, and the infinite richness and wonderous-ness of prayer. With her permission, I want to give testimony to God’s infinite goodness and kindness, one of those good gifts that only our Heavenly Father could have orchestrated and accomplished.

For Jules, 2014 was painful and terrible in many ways, yet contained some of the greatest miracles and victories she has ever experienced.  2013 ended with great strife in her marriage, and 2014 began with her husband demanding a divorce that she did not want, which was eventually finalized against her will. We prayed, we sought God for that miracle of healing and restoration, we wept, we questioned, we counseled, we prayed more and I watched my best friend walk through perhaps one of the most painful seasons of her life trusting Jesus. Not only did she trust Him, but really truly depended on Him for the strength to draw her next breath. And I saw her pain and I felt it. I am convinced the reason I felt it so much is because I went to battle for her in prayer. It was the hardest and most precious thing I have ever been privileged to do for someone. Through it all, the Lord was teaching me what it meant to truly become a prayer warrior for another sister in Christ. And He as literally astounded us with His faithfulness to answer prayer. He did not restore her marriage or change that man’s heart, but He healed her and changed her, and He changed me, too. And we will not forget what He has done!

Such an interesting thing began to happen in her relationship with the Lord when her healing had become a reality. When it was no longer a miracle to get through a day without crying, when she no longer depended on Jesus to lift her head enough to look at her computer screen at work, when she did not have to eat/sleep/breath scripture just to keep from completely falling apart…then everything seemed dry.  Have you ever experienced something like that?  When you go through such a shocking and tragic loss, depending on Jesus for everything is a necessity. When He comes through, you begin to heal, it transitions from necessity to choice. I think that is actually the much more difficult thing. I remember telling her once that she had to be the 1 leper out of the 10 that returns to give thanks. And that’s what I have witnessed her doing, praise Jesus!  But, it has not been without struggle against the dryness. And, just as Pastor Keller’s book was quoted above…seasons of dryness really do finally break through into joy and feeling again.

She was actually supposed to be here celebrating New Year’s with us this weekend. There is currently a record-breaking ice storm between here and where she lives. So, we prayed and we sought wisdom as to whether she should brave the icy conditions.  Even when she tried to get out in the ice and come against our better judgment, the Holy Spirit gave her such incredible conviction she had to turn around and go back home! My attempts to buy her a plane ticket were thwarted by flight cancellations.  And as God would have perfectly timed it…she is stuck in New Mexico. Alone.

So, I did what any best friend would do…I pouted.  Ha! I was seriously walking through the store with my husband yesterday, and silently contending with the Lord as to “why He would make her be by herself instead of with all of us who love and miss her so much.”  Well, little did I know, He was going to tell me why he kept her in New Mexico a few hours later.  And so quickly I forgot – He loves her more than any of us could!

Fast-forward to last evening, New Year’s Eve. I told my husband that since we were not going anywhere, I really wanted time to take a long, kid-free, hot Epsom-salt bath to soothe my aching muscles from starting a new workout program earlier this week…and because of the awesome guy he is, it actually happened! (Those of you who have ever had small children know what a miracle that is in itself)!  So, with all my quietness I was praying, and specifically I was praying for Julia. I was just bolding approaching the throne on her behalf as I have so many times over the past year. And, suddenly I got the strongest word from the Lord concerning her. One of those instant downloads from On High where I knew I better record or write it down ASAP so that I would not forget it.

I called right away to tell her what the Lord laid on my heart that He wanted to say to her. I had to leave it on her voicemail. My heart was beating 100mph it seemed, and therefore I spoke 100mph so I could say everything without getting cut-off. She called me back in tears and praising Jesus and telling me that it was the exact thing she had been needing and wanting from Him. I had no idea, but some of the secret things she had told the Lord, He confirmed them through what He told me. I was just as overwhelmed and amazed as she was! She was crying and laughing when she told me she was totally content if that is why she had to stay home alone so that I could have been by myself away from the crowd in prayer and hearing a word from Him that perhaps will set the course for her life in 2015.  I do not want to say that He sent the storm to keep her home, but He might have.  I do not know how to fully explicate it, but we were closer together right then on the phone discussing God’s faithfulness, praying together though 7 hours apart, than we could have been if she were right here in my living room.

I cannot describe the gratitude I feel that God is that big. He is that personal.  Our best plans for New Year’s Eve paled in comparison to what He had a mind to do in us and for us.

He knew what she needed to hear because she had been coming to Him in prayer and being honest with Him, even in the drought of her heart.

He knew that I needed to be still and to listen, and to pray and experience exactly what He desires to be my reality for 2015…boldly approaching the throne of grace to receive what He has to give.

But, you see, it’s not merely about me and Jesus, or Jules and Jesus, or you and Jesus. He is too big for that. The word He gave me about not letting 2015 be a year where I do not have because I do not ask – it has to do with being His representative in the Earth.

We really can experience God in such a profound way that we are forever changed, and so often He accomplishes that in response to us being alone with Him in prayer, listening and pursuing His heart.  Matthew 6:6 is where Jesus says, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”  He takes what He teaches us in private, and moves us into the context of the people He places around us.  He means for us to be in community. He means to use our lives to impact those around us with the power of His presence, with the glory of His goodness, with the kindness of His mercy…and He prepares us for all of that in the secret place.

I love this next quote from Pastor Keller’s book:

“The traditional forms of prayer—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication—are concrete practices as well as profound experiences. We must know the awe of praising his glory, the intimacy of finding his grace, and the struggle of asking his help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of his presence. Prayer, then, is both awe and intimacy, struggle and reality.”

Excerpt From: Keller, Timothy. “Prayer.” Penguin Group, USA, 2014-11-04. iBooks.

Sweet sibling in Christ, I don’t know where this blog post finds you today, but I pray that you will experience the Lord in a refreshing way this year – by intimacy in prayer in the aloneness with Him. Press through days that are dry and difficult, where you feel like He is not there and when it seems He does not see you. He is & He does. Press in to His Word, let Him write His truth on your heart. Press in to His goodness and allow Him to astound you with what He is doing in, around, and through you. May you have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that seeks Him and His will on the Earth.  Press on in this walk with Jesus, know the reality of His presence…He is worthy and He is so very worth it!

Isaiah 43:18-19, 20b NLT

18 “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.

19 For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland…

20b Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.

What do I really want from God? (My prayer today)

Father,

To be easily orchestrated by You,

To seek your face,

To ponder the things of God,

To marvel and to wonder at Your ways,

To see You move,

To hear Your voice,

To know Your Word,

To receive my assignments with joy,

To go where You send,

To stay beneath the shadow of Your wing,

To love You more today than I did yesterday,

To grow in my faith,

To surrender my entire life to You,

To represent You well,

To tell of Your goodness and Your mercy and Your love,

Oh God, to hear You say, “Well done, good & faithful servant!” as I enter eternity,

That my heart would continually give thanks to You,                                                           God my Father, through Jesus the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen!