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!

Advertisements

His Word is Alive

Before I have any memories, I am told that my great-grandmother, Zettie Boyer, taught me the 23rd Psalm. I would recite it proudly for her, my parents and grandparents while we were at home. But, Grandma Zettie’s great plan was for my little almost 3 yr old feet to stand up on that second step in our sweet little country church and deliver the 23rd Psalm to our entire congregation on a Sunday morning. Now that my little boy is almost 3, I can completely relate to what she must have felt when I refused. Isn’t it just like a 2-3 year old not to perform when you most want them to?!

My mom says this went on until I was 4, and sweet Grandma Zettie had to settle for the fact that I was not quite ready for public ministry just yet. I feel like somehow right now I may be stepping into a calling that woman prayed into my life. I don’t know what her prayers are, the ones stored in golden bowls in Heaven (Revelation 5:8), someday I will though, and I just wonder.

I am typing through vision blurred by tears at even the thought of how God’s Word was on my lips from before I have any memory. And tears at the thought that this woman poured into my life a respect and a desire to speak the words of the Lord, and very likely prayed for my ministry someday. Overwhelming. Jesus, praise be to Your Name.

And let that be such a testimony and an encouragement to you, if you are a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent or have any influence in a child’s life (we will discuss Isaiah 55:11 momentarily). His Word never returns void, press-on in your prayers for the next generation, you never know what kind of immense harvest is to come long after you plant those seeds!

2 Timothy 3:16-17 MSG

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

I had never read that verse in The Message translation until this morning.  Don’t you just want to be put-together and shaped-up for the tasks God has for us?  We want to be prepared!  And His Word is what prepares us.  It is for our benefit, for showing us what is true, it exposes our rebellion, it corrects our mistakes, God trains us to live His way by His Word!

I have been pulled from defeat, been broken of horrific pride, been released from numerous stays in prisons of hurt and unforgiveness, and had my face lifted by Nail-scarred Hands in the midst of the most life-constricting sadness and loss –> by His Words.

They are not just words on a page to me.

They are living, active and powerful enough to bring victory over…and over…and over again. I have never felt more loved than when I study the God of this Book. I’ve never felt more strength, more wisdom, more confidence, more pure happiness and joy, more conviction or more understanding than when I crack open this Book. Nothing brings Life to my bones the way God’s Word does. And it’s because HE is breathing these words out, and as my teacher, Beth Moore says, “I intend to inhale them.”

Hebrews 4:12 AMP

For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.

Oh God, give us a love & hunger for Your Word! We greatly need truth in a world reeling and tangled in its own web of lies…the more we know His Word, the freer we become from deception and darkness.

John 8:31-32 NLT

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I picked out 18 of my favorite verses from one of the most precious discourses on the wonder of God’s Word:

Psalm 119

18 Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.

37 Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word

40 I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness.

45 I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.

72 Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.

74 May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your word.

92 If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery.

103 How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey.

104 Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life.

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

111 Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight.

125 Give discernment to me, your servant; then I will understand your laws.

130 The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.

143 As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.

147 I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words.

160 The very essence of your words is truth; all your just regulations will stand forever.

162 I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure.

172 Let my tongue sing about your word, for all your commands are right.

Which one of those jumped off the page to you?  Was there one of those verses you read twice?  Write it down.  Memorize it.  Do not think for a second that was not the Holy Spirit speaking to you…it was!  Rejoice and be glad that He is alive and He is active, my friend!

In 4 days I am stepping out in obedience in teaching God’s Word in a public setting. I will not be reciting Psalm 23, but just for old-time’s sake, read these words with me…

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

he refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I don’t know who or where you are right now in the path of life, but I do know this: God has something to say to you through His Word. He deeply cares that His Words are on your lips and in your heart. He speaks to us however He wants to, and what I know to be true is that when you look for Him in the Scriptures, you cannot help but end up face to face with the Living God. And when you end up face to face with the Living God, things start to happen in your life. There is no more exhilaratingly wild ride on the earth, than a living active relationship with the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ our Lord. Get to know Him better, walk with Him, talk with Him, pray and open this Book with confident expectation to be changed into His likeness.

Isaiah 55:10-13

10 “The rain and snow come down from the heaven and stay on the ground to water the earth.  They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.

11 It is the same with my word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

12 You will live in joy and peace.  The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!

13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.  Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.  These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”

In the ESV, the second half of verse 11 is translated:

…it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Sweet friend, you are the thing for which He sent His Word. Your family is the thing for which He sent His Word. Whatever your position, whatever your dilemma, whatever your circumstance or age or status or situation…He sent His Word that we may be healed and made whole by the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 107:20  

He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.

Any and every moment you spend meditating, reading, pondering, praying, studying, or memorizing the Word of the Lord is time that will produce a harvest of righteousness for His Name’s sake. It WILL bear fruit! Oh sister, He is so worthy of our time and attention, and He is worth it!

*Photo Credit:  http://amolife.com/image/kids/pretty-little-girl-portraits.html

My Go-To Prayer, No Matter What (a Study of Colossians 1:9-14)

I want to share with you my absolute go-to prayer when someone is hurting, weary, grieving, disappointed, confused, if they are tired, weak, depressed, dry or defeated. This is also my go-to prayer for people on the top of the mountain, in victory, a heart full of praise, for people who are rejoicing and seeing God’s hand at work, or in a season of ease and tangible blessing.  I believe, that no matter what situation or circumstance, this prayer is one God is pleased to answer – it is His will because you can pray it according to His Word!

Isn’t it just like God to make His Word applicable to us at any stage in life. Not every scripture speaks to every season, but this particular prayer Paul prayed for the Colossians, I believe, is one that does!   Colossians 1:9-14

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people, who live in the light. 13 For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

There are 10 points I want us to consider as we look at this life-giving, go-to prayer for any season or situation of life:

  • Do Not Stop Praying (v. 9)

Keep on asking! That’s what Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 7:7-8.  Even when you feel like giving up on something or on someone, persevere in prayer!

  • Complete knowledge of His Will (v. 9)

What a great, great request this is! Romans 12:2 tells us that by the renewing of our minds we can learn His will, which is good, pleasing, and perfect. God is pleased to answer this prayer, because in effect you are praying for a mind to be renewed so that this person can know the will of God. Something I have said for so many years is that I do not believe our God is in the business of keeping us in confusion – He is pleased when we want to know His best plan…but will we persist in prayer and His Word long enough to have our minds transformed so that we can learn what His will is?  We can pray boldly to have complete knowledge of His will!

  • Spiritual Wisdom & Understanding (v. 9)

Here is another amazing thing to pray! To have spiritual wisdom is so awesome, listen to this!  The Greek word for wisdom is “Sophia” and it means this (according to Strong’s Lexicon):

  1. the varied knowledge of things human and divine, acquired by acuteness (sharpness of mind) and experience

  2. science and learning

  3. interpreting dreams and always giving the sagest advice

  4. intelligence evidenced in discovering the meaning of mysterious numbers or visions

  5. skill in the management of affairs

  6. devout and proper prudence in dealing with those who are not Christ followers, skill and discretion in imparting Christian truth

  7. the knowledge and practice of the requisites for Godly and upright living

That almost overwhelms me, does it you? Can you check off a couple things on that list of 7 that you or someone you’re praying for needs? I love God’s Word, it is so encompassing we have no idea until we get in and study it what kind of access we have in prayer – things unimaginable! Did you know by asking for this kind of spiritual wisdom you are praying that someone will have the ability to share the Good News more effectively? Or that they will have skill in the managing of affairs? In science and learning?   That they will acquire knowledge as if they have had the experience? Amazing. Start praying for some “Sophia” wisdom for your loved ones and friends – we need it, Lord! And we haven’t even touched “understanding” yet…so here goes:

Understanding, Greek “Synesis” – it suggests quickness of apprehension, the penetrating consideration which precedes action, understanding, reflective thought.

I don’t know about you, but I know that I think we all need some quickness of apprehension and certainly could use penetrating consideration which precedes our actions. If we are to represent Jesus well on this Earth, then we certainly need this kind of understanding!

  • Lives that always honor & please the Lord, producing every kind of good fruit. (v. 10)

My mind immediately goes to John 15:8 right here. “When you produce much fruit, you are My true disciples. This brings great glory to My Father.”

The word “honor” here is interpreted in other translations, “a life worthy.”  The NIV says, “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work…”  We can be assured that if we live lives that honor and please and are worthy of the Lord, the evidence will be good fruit, and that proves that we are His true disciples.

  • Growth, as you learn to know God better & better (v. 10)

Several other translations render this statement, “increasing or growing in the knowledge of God.” You have probably heard many times that in the Christian life there is no stand-still, you are either growing or shrinking back in your faith, either moving forward or backwards. I know what I want to do, and I know what I want for the people I am praying for as well! If we want to know God better and better and grow in the knowledge of Him, His Word is the best place to start. That is why He gave it to us!

We have ridiculous access to the Word of God in America, so much so that I believe it has caused us to lose our hunger for God as the Body of Christ.  Much like the Isrealites begged Moses for meat, and when the quail came after a while they were way tired of it.  It no longer meant what it used to mean to them.  Lord, forgive us from the sinful belief that we know You as well as we need to, forgive us for not reverencing and hungering for Your Word as we should as our daily bread – and Father give us an insatiable hunger to know You better and better by knowing Your Word!

  • Be strengthened with ALL His glorious power (v. 11)

When I was first teaching “Jesus Loves Me” to my little boy, I kept having an issue with teaching him to say “they are weak”, then the Lord showed me that worldly thinking had slipped into my mind. I was thinking that I did not want my boy speaking weakness over himself. But as the next line so beautifully goes with it, “but HE is strong!”  If we can understand that our strength comes from His glorious power, and denounce the world’s lie that we have to muster up our own strength, we will get it right! I have wasted so much time in my life by trying to rely on my own strength, which always fails. Jesus does not fail! His power is unending and has no limitation. I want my baby boy growing up to be free to own his weakness that he might cling to the glorious power of God which will make him strong!   We all need that, Amen?!

Just quick note on the Greek here, which I find totally fascinating…the Greek for strengthened is “dynamoo.”  If you look at “dynamo’s” root-word you find the word “dynamis.”  Dynamis is the word Paul used for power in this same verse!  Let me explain further –  God is telling us through Paul that our strength comes from His power…and with the Greek words Paul used, he gave the readers a literal word picture.  Just as the word, dynamoo comes from the word dynamis…our strength comes from God’s Power.  Sign me up!

  • ALL the endurance & patience you need (v. 11)

Of all the things I think we need under trial, these two things are paramount. Let’s let the Word of the Lord speak to our hearts, here are some definitions so that we can better understand endurance and patience:

Endurance (Greek – Hypomone): in the New Testament the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and reverence for God (piety) by even the greatest trials and sufferings; steadfast waiting for; a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance (Vines Expositor’s Dictionary)

Patience (Greek – Makrothymia): patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs (Strong’s Lexicon)

We are faced daily with trials and sufferings of many kinds. Our trials seem almost trivial if we compare our lives to those people who live in third-world countries or hostile nations like Syria or Iran. But, you know what I know about our God? He sees what breaks our hearts just like He sees what breaks our brothers’ and sisters’ hearts in much harsher environments by comparison.  Comparison kills us whether we are elevating ourselves above someone else or burying ourselves below them.  God is sovereign, and we are all in equal need of His love and power in our lives, no matter who we are or where we live.  Maybe you have a harsh environment where you live, or you know someone who really has tremendous hardship or sufferings right now.  We are not to discount those things – our God sees us and He knows what we need.  And the Holy Spirit is our Comforter no matter where or who we are, as long as we are in Christ.

You and I also need a special measure of endurance and patience, because we live in the U.S. where we are inundated by the “instant-ness” of life. We can DVR our TV so that we do not even have to patiently endure 3 minutes of commercials anymore!  You can buy a book and instantly read it on your phone or tablet within seconds.  We really need the Lord to teach us endurance and patience, I do not know anyone who does not struggle with these two things.

When we face roadblocks or something seems to be taking too long, according to our own understanding, our first inclination is to bust out of whatever it is, to get out from under the pressure we may feel – we want relief!  We desperately need endurance and patience if we are going to represent Jesus well in the world, after all – what better example do we have than He Himself patiently enduring waiting 30 years to even begin His ministry, then three years of teaching amongst hostile religious leaders, and then on top of all that – patiently enduring the Cross.

The Greek root-word for endurance is “Hypomeno” which is to remain, to tarry behind; i.e. abide, not recede or flee. To persevere: under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ; to endure, bear ill treatments bravely and calmly.

What a beautiful thing to pray for someone!  Instead of praying that God will change their (our) circumstances and release them (us) from pain or trial or difficulty – what if we began praying that they (we) would be so strengthened by all His glorious power, and be so full of the endurance and patience we need – that they (we) would not recede or flee but persevere in misfortune and trials and hold fast to their (our) faith in Jesus; that they (we) would bear ill treatments bravely and calmly and refuse the temptation to avenge wrongs against them (us).  Oh that’s so good, Lord!

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured.  That is the true mark of a champion, I love the NLT uses that word to describe our Savior!

  • Be Filled with Joy (v. 11)

The coolest thing about joy is that it is not dependent upon circumstances. It means, according the Strong’s Lexicon: rejoice exceedingly, to be well, thrive.

I want those I pray for to rejoice exceedingly and to be well and to thrive!  That’s a prayer I can get down with, how about you?  It reminds me of James 1:2-4

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Did you notice these same words and concepts here?  Troubles can lead to Joy -> Faith gets Tested -> Endurance has a chance to Grow -> when our endurance is fully developed = we are complete, lacking nothing.  Amen.

  • Always thanking the Father (v. 12a)

I could write an entire post, and probably will at some point, on this word. Thanks/thanking/thanksgiving – it is the Greek “Eucharisteo” and it changed my life several years ago after I listened to the audio version of Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.”  I have listened to it 3 more times since then, and each time I have a greater understanding of what it means to give God thanks in everything.

I want to be the kind of daughter that is always thanking my Father.

Jesus was the kind of Son that was always thanking The Father. Check this out!

Eucharisteo:

to be grateful,

to feel thankful,

to give thanks

Could there be a more encompassing definition than this?   Be.  Feel.  Give.

Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, asks the Lord that we’d ALWAYS be thanking the Father.  What the definition gets at, is that we can (even when we do not “feel” thankful), give thanks. And when we give thanks, we begin to feel thanks, and that creates a state of “being” thankful in our hearts. If we can push through the lack of feeling into obedience of what God asks of us, inevitably our feelings will come around.  God is a God powerful enough to change our “want to” our “feelings” and our “state of being.” All we need to do is humble ourselves, and be obedient to what He is saying to us right now.  This day our daily bread.

One step at a time, patiently enduring and relying on His glorious power as our strength, all the while we are growing in our knowledge of Him and discovering through the transformative power of His Word what His will is, and our lives begin to bear fruit and thereby honor the greatness of His Name.  And finally, to the crux of it all in verse 14…the truth of the Good News!

  • The truth is that He enables us to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people who live in the light, He rescued us out of the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son – Who purchased our freedom & forgave our sins.     (v. 12b-14)

The next verses in Colossians 1:15-20 go on to describe the incomparable greatness and power and superiority of Jesus Christ our Lord. No matter who we are praying for, saved, not saved, struggling or succeeding – we all need Jesus. We all need Him equally as bad as the next person. The Good News is that He Himself came down and rescued us out of the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, by means of Christ’s blood on the cross – He purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. THIS is what enables us to live the life He died and rose again to give us!

A life of prayer & unhindered communication with God – complete knowledge of His will – experiencing wisdom and understanding we could not have apart from Him – lives that honor and please the Lord – lives that bear every kind of good fruit – growing through knowing God better and better – being strengthened with all His glorious power – more endurance – more patience – being filled with joy – always thanking the Father – knowing, receiving, and walking in the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ. That is life and life to the full, if you ask me!

I want to leave you with just the coolest, most refreshing take on these words from The Message translation ->

Colossians 1:9-14 The Message (MSG)

9-12 Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to His will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making Him proud of you as you work hard in His orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that He has for us.

13-14 God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son He loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

Goodness Gracious, can I get an AMEN!?!?!  That’s my prayer for you today, and I pray that you, too, can pray with more boldness when you understand these words God inspired in the letter Paul wrote to the Believers in Colosse.

The Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of this kind of life, and He is so so so worth it!

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!

When We Cannot Understand Why, This is the Answer…

So, I have to tell y’all a story.  Strawberries are one of my 2 year-old’s favorite snacks. Yesterday I had cut the “green stuff” off the top of 3 ripe, dark-red, juicy organic strawberries for him…but he was not having it. He had seen 1 big strawberry in the package that I had left behind (on purpose, mind you). And, I mean, his little strong-willed self was not about to settle for 3 little strawberries when he could have the big one!!!

What he could NOT see was that the big one he had his heart (or taste buds rather) set upon, was NOT ripe, it was still green at the top for goodness sake.  As his momma, I knew that big strawberry was definitely not going to be sweet, juicy nor enjoyable.  It would positively be hard to chew and sour, and if I know my boy – which I do – he was going to end up biting into it, then spitting it out and hand it straight to me!  So, in an effort to avoid all of that mess, and from a loving place, I simply chose to give him 3 of the smaller strawberries and leave the big one to ripen a bit more for him to enjoy another day. I had his very best in mind. But all his eyes could see is what I did not give him.

Are you catching what I’m throwing out there?  I did.

As I stood there watching him…assuming I was holding out on him, as if I was being mean and stingy with him…God started to reveal things in my own heart.  In reality, nothing could have been further from the truth! As a mom, it was so frustrating because he would not listen to my reasoning, he refused to hear my heart behind why I chose 3 beautiful strawberries instead of the 1 on which he had his mind fixed.  I knew what he did not know!

When is the last time that you saw something “better” in your own eyes that God did not give you?

Even though we know it in our minds, perhaps maybe our hearts are not really getting it – that our God sees what we do not and cannot see.  And the underlying, significant question is:

Do we really, truly, somewhere deep-down (in the secret places of our own heart), do we have a mistrust for our God?

Do we trust in what we can see with our own eyes?

OR

Do we trust the Creator of the Universe, The One Who condescended to Earth as a man, took upon Himself all of our shame and guilt and sin, died in our place, rose from the grave to give us eternal victory, and ever lives to intercede for us?!

God is not holding out on us, no matter how much that seems to be the case.  He is good. His ways are right and His Word is true. Trust Him today.  He is the only One who will not change, He is the only One Who is exactly Who He says He is.  He is the only One Who can see what is coming our way, He knows what is in our best interest, and this is critical for you and I to understand – He cares.

Last week, a precious woman who has been unable to conceive a child for years came in to my office. Numerous tests, numerous treatments, countless hours of wondering and asking and never understanding why God would not say yes. Just that morning she and her husband had been told by their fertility specialist that a “less than 7% chance existed” even if they tried a different (very expensive) procedure to get pregnant. She wept because she also found out that a family member who already has 4 children, just got pregnant with her 5th.  This is the magnitude of things that are overwhelming the lives of so many people around us.

I was overcome with emotion for her, I could hear the raw state of her spirit, and I knelt beside her and told her with every bit of confidence I have, “Tell Him, tell God what you are feeling, tell Him how bad you are hurting and how you do not understand it, and do not let an offense with Him take hold in your heart. Do not stuff down those emotions in order to put on the “good Christian” front, as if we cannot cry out to Him or be honest with Him.  He is not fragile!  He loves you and He sees you.”

And boy do I believe that!  I do.  And if you, my sister, are in a situation that is of that intensity in your own life, I want to tell you the same thing I told her!  (Go read it again and keeping reading-on because there is another jewel I want to share with you in a couple paragraphs.)

It is so dangerous for a believer to fear or fail                                                    to bare her soul to the One Who created it.

It is in Jesus Christ alone we find our healing.

There is a young pastor who is currently imprisoned in Iran on an 8-year sentence for preaching the Gospel.  His name is Pastor Saeed Abedini.  Perhaps the most fascinating and wonderful sermon I have EVER heard speaking to this subject is a letter he wrote to his little girl on her 8th birthday.  His wife, Naghmeh, read this letter aloud to us at the True Woman ’14 Conference just a few weeks ago.  Below are links to watch the video or read the entire letter.  I have given an excerpt below:

  • Watch Naghmeh read his letter here (go to the 18 minute mark to hear her read the letter, although watching her entire testimony is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED):

                 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SYun1x40BI

  • Read the entire transcript of his letter here:

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/pastor-saeeds-letter-to-his-daughter-rebekka/

I know that you question why you have prayed so many times for my return and yet I am not home yet. Now there is a big WHY In your mind you are asking: WHY Jesus isn’t answering your prayers and the prayers of all of the people around the world praying for my release and for me to be home with you and our family.

The answer to the WHY is WHO. WHO is control? LORD JESUS CHRIST is in control.

I desire for you to learn important lessons during these trying times. Lessons that you carry now and for the rest of your life. The answer to the WHY is WHO.

The confusion of “WHY has all of this happened?” and “WHY your prayers are not answered yet” is resolved with understanding WHO is in control…LORD JESUS CHRIST, our GOD!

God is in control of the whole world and everything that is happening in it is for His good purpose, for His glory, and will be worked out for our good (Romans 8:28). Jesus allows me to be kept here for His glory. He is doing something inside each of us and also outside in the world. People die and suffer for their Christian faith all over the world and some may wonder why? But you should know the answer of WHY is WHO. It is for Jesus. He is worth the price. And He has a plan to be glorified through our lives.

God knows the struggle in that little girl’s heart over her daddy’s imprisonment. I’m confident that she has heard of God’s power and seen it in her young little life already. The issue often is not that we doubt God’s power to perform miracles, but rather when He does not act like we want & ask Him to act?

Have you asked Him for a miracle you have not yet received?

  • A disease or injury to be healed?
  • A marriage to be restored?
  • A job to be found?
  • A child to be conceived?
  • A situation to be changed?
  • A single person longing to be married?
  • A broken heart over a sudden loss?
  • A financial struggle that seems to repeat itself?
  • A prodigal child to come back to Jesus?

And yet, somehow in His sovereign way of knowing what we do not know and seeing what we do not see, through His loving and caring and kind hands, our God has chosen a different answer right now.

God chooses our strawberries wisely and from a place of love.

It’s Who He Is. (1 John 4:8)

There is no other way He operates. He does not change. (James 1:17)

He does not withhold what is good for those of us who love Him. (Psalm 84:11)

He is the giver of all good things. (James 1:17)

His heart is kind. (Romans 4:2)

If you are struggling today, take heart. (John 16:33)

My attempt to give my boy the best strawberries I had to offer is rubbish compared to what our Heavenly Father offers us.  My very best could not even scratch the surface of the vastness of the glory of The Lord’s favor and affection toward His children.

Listen to what Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew 7:7-11:

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? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!  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.

There is great victory to be had in persisting in what you are asking God to do. Persist in prayer to find the ways He is revealing Himself.  Persist in knowing Who He Is on the deepest level.  And the result is that you begin to trust this:  He knows what you do not know and He sees what you do not see.  Knowing Him intimately allows you to tap into what the Holy Spirit is saying (Rev. 3:22), and agree with what Jesus is at the right hand of our Father interceding for us (Romans 8:34).

I wonder if we would be willing to remain faithful in our own frustration or dissatisfaction, knowing that because God is Who He says He Is…we shall doubtless receive His grace and blessing in the hardship. And we shall doubtless live in victory regardless of our circumstance.  And we shall doubtless help another sojourner on their road of faith as well.

Naghmeh Abedini testified to the fact that because Saeed is imprisoned, countless fellow prisoners and guards have denounced islam and received salvation in Jesus’ Name. The Iranian government has moved him numerous times because of the deep effect his witness is having for the Kingdom of the One True God. He is now in solitary confinement because they cannot keep him quiet about His Savior. Not only is Saeed continuing to press on and fight the good fight, Naghmeh is as well. She has been in the media, testified about Jesus Christ in front of officials and governments, rulers and authorities of earthly kingdoms and she shares the gospel in places it would have never been welcome, had it not been for Saeed’s imprisonment.

My precious patient who was falling apart the last time I saw her, today informed me that she has been able to minister to a friend who had a miscarriage and is struggling to understand God’s reasons for not giving her this child.  His ways are immensely, vastly beyond what we can see.

Sweet sister, when we do not understand why, the answer is Who. Jesus Christ is worthy of our lives being poured out for Him, and He is worth it whatever your lot!  Trust Him today.  And if you do not have enough faith to trust, tell Him so.  All you need to do is ask.  He is a Father who loves to give good gifts (and the best strawberries) to His children.

How God Used an Unexpected Trio to Teach Me About Rest

You know how occasionally God has to allow something fairly profound in your life to get your attention…well, it happened to me last week. It occurred in the form of a high fever and a stomach bug and a scripture in Isaiah.

One of the things I pray for myself continually is that I would have a hearing ear. I heard a sermon series last year about this, and the concept is from a Hebrew word, shama’, which translates “understanding/hearing ear.” 

It’s what Solomon prayed in 1 Kings 3:9 AMP.

So give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad…

And I believe God is faithful to answer that prayer continually as I ask Him continually…and yet sometimes my hearing gets deafened. I have blogged about this before. In my natural self, I am a doer. This is probably why I need to continually pray to be a hearer! Then I will hear the truth and do that, instead of just doing whatever I think needs done in my flesh.

So, about the stomach virus. I mean really really, I did nothing but lay on the couch or in bed. My body hurt so bad and I was so incredibly weak. My sweet husband waited on me, my 2 year old was the best behaved he has ever been, and I rested. And I believe the Lord reminded me of something HUGE in my sickness. That I am not invincible. That I can do almost everything humanly possible to be radically healthy, and sometimes that means your body has to fight off a really bad bug, and mine did. He gently reminded me that I am not able to keep going and going and going without time to recharge. Being sick made me incredibly thankful for my health and for the fact that God allows me to stay well 99.9% of the time. And I kept feeling the Lord press on me how important it is for me to rest.

As women in general, this is not something that happens often in our lives. There is always something to be done, always someone to take care of, always a task to be accomplished. I think there are a lot more Marthas than Marys in our world today. But, I heard God reminding me that it is not okay.

I was exhausted last week, but the reality is that I was exhausted before I got sick. Are you exhausted? I know what you are thinking, “Heavens no! Don’t you see my perfectly ironed cape flowing behind me beautifully as I fly from one place to another, incessantly running to and fro serving, delivering, picking up, dropping off, grocery shopping, organic cooking, cleaning, working, typing, playing, reading books, helping my husband, organizing, teaching, planning, loving…”

And those things are good! And they are necessary!

And they are not to be done at the exclusion of stopping all the motion and commotion…and resting.

You and I need rest. Yes, that is what He taught me through a high fever, a stomach bug…and a scripture in Isaiah that He had me reading and studying for the 5 days BEFORE my affliction ensued.

Now, I fully believe as a New Testament Christian that we are free from the law because Jesus fulfilled it, so when you read this scripture in reference to my point, I am not suggesting that we go back into captivity under the Law of Moses and rigidly keep a mandate that we have been freed from under the cross of Jesus Christ. That said, there is benefit and blessing to be received when we observe Sabbath rest.

Isaiah 58:13 NLT:

Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.

Isaiah 58:13 from the Message:

If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage, 
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, 
God’s holy day as a celebration,
 If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual, ’
making money, running here and there—

If you read my short post from last week “Who is your #1?“, you will remember this concept. As Jesus Followers we are to sell our entire lives out as worship to the Lord. I believe in 7 days-a-week, everything we do, 100% committed to representing Jesus in our homes, our cars, on our phones and laptops, on our Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest accounts, our church, our offices or places of vocation outside the home, in our relationships, where we shop, wherever we set our foot, in the mundane, and in the insanely important.

My point is this: Do we set aside one day out of seven where we really honor the Lord with a day of rest, where we truly do not pursue our own interests. Do we really enjoy that day, (if we ever really take a day of rest) and speak of it with DELIGHT? Do we resist following our own desires, do we resist idle words and chatter?  Do we tune-in and seek what He would be pleased for us to do that day?

In the past months, I have gotten really good at worshipping while I’m doing all my activities. For example, I honestly have been able to do mundane chores with joy because I honestly praise the Lord while I am doing them. It has been such a life-giving activity to exercise gratitude while doing dishes and overflow with thankfulness as I’m cooking dinner. But, when I was laying there on what felt like my death-bed for a couple days, and I read those verses in Isaiah over and over, I turned my face up to the Lord and I said, “God, I never do this, not ever for a whole day.” And He lovingly told me through His Word that He loves me so much and wants my obedience in this.  He wants my obedience in this because it is for my good!

And I’m going to tell you that it took a massive fever and stomach bug for me to do the rest thing, the stopping of all the doing.  And it worked. He was right. Listen to the verse that follows:

Isaiah 58:14

…THEN the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

 Listen to it in the Message bible:

Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
  Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
 I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
  Yes! God says so!

Yes, I believe God said so to me!  And I’m different now. Dishes can wait 1 day (well, let’s be honest, my dishes are accustomed to waiting 3 or 4 days, so maybe your dishes can wait 1 day).  The list of errands can wait 1 day and all the running here and there. Complicated menus can take a 1 day break. And I can enjoy a day like this. I can still love and give and serve but I can rest, too.  I have the freedom on this day to treat this day as a celebration of Who God is, to remember what He has done, and it can be a day of joy.  

Sometimes with our ADD society, I think we see rest as boredom.  And I am guilty, guilty, guilty!  But, what I have to remember is that God never asks us to do something that will not completely transform our lives for the receiving of more abundant blessing!

God promises that He will be our delight because of taking a day like this.  Perhaps few things are more important than our delight and our joy being found in NO OTHER PERSON OR THING but Our God Himself!

Immediately my mind goes to Psalm 37:3-4 AMP when I think about delighting in the Lord.

Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.

We can only trust our heart’s desires when our greatest delight is Jesus Himself.  He told us that the greatest commandment is to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and strength.  Not part.  Not what is leftover after we have spent every waking moment thinking about and checking-off our incessant to-do lists.  It seems to me that I hear God best when my life and mind are not jam-packed with so much I can’t think straight to begin with.

When you and I take 1 day to rest our hearts and minds and bodies and use that day to focus completely on God and His abundant goodness, that is what gives us strength.

Nehemiah 8:10 says that they joy of the Lord IS our strength.

And something really fascinating is that God delights in us, too. The reason He wants our uninterrupted attention and affection is so that we can be aware of His toward us!

Zephaniah 3:17 AMP  is one of my very favorite scriptures I give to encourage people who are feeling overwhelmed. I do this because God has used this scripture to minister to me so many times!

The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.

Psalm 18:19 says:

He led me to a place of safety;
                                                                    He rescued me because He delights in me.

Nothing that you or I could do or accomplish can make Him love or delight in us more than He already does.

But, I know that I desire to delight in Him more.  How about you?

His promises are right and they are true. He tells us point blank in Isaiah 58:13-14

  • IF you and I want to delight in Him
  • IF we want to experience true satisfaction
  • IF we are to receive all that He has for us
  • THEN we should take a day to rest, He did in Genesis 2:3!
  • THEN we should stop our personal pursuits, idle talk, and life as usual for 1 day
  • THEN we should really enjoy and honor and celebrate the Lord for the whole day

IF we will obey…He will come through.  And sisters, when He is our greatest delight…that changes everything.  Are you in?   I’m praying for you as you walk this thing out, we are all works-in-progress, and our God is awesome and kind and His delight is all over you.  He is worthy and He is worth it.  Love y’all…

isaiah58.13coral