“Thanking Him, no matter what…”

“Rejoice always,  pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

We are coming to the end of this month that began with a focus on intercessory prayer, those prayers we offer up for others.  So how did we do?  Were we able to maintain our focus on the needs of others for 30 days?  I hope you were blessed by your experiences.    

I would be very interested to hear about any experiences you have had.  Did you see God move?  Do you feel as though your efforts made a difference?  If not evident in the life of the person you were praying for, did God move in your life during this time?

What I have definitely learned during this time is that my prayer life is a work in progress.  I still have so much to learn and so far to go.  But I am encouraged to keep trying.

I am drawn to this scripture.  “Give thanks in all circumstances.”  So, whether God answered me, or not; whether He moved on my behalf, or not – I am to thank Him.  

As I ponder this, I am overcome with a profound sense of gratitude.  I realize that I may not have gotten what I asked for from God (yet.)  But I did receive something incredibly valuable in the process.  I was drawn deeper into His presence.  My soul was renewed.  I experienced His peace.  

This month has shown me just a glimmer of what my life could be if I maintained my connection with Him.  I, along with some of you, will be working on my 30-day challenge of uninterrupted prayer time.  I look forward to seeing what He is going to do in that time.

Be Blessed!

 

Holy Father,

You are my provision.  You provide everything I need.  I am learning to praise You, even in times when You don’t give me everything I want.  I don’t quite understand the way You work sometimes.  But I trust that Your plans for me are good.  And I will be at peace in all circumstances.  Thank You for Your unending patience with me.

In the name of the Lamb I pray,

Amen

“Learning to drive with my left foot…”

Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” – Mark 1:35

Question of the day:  What if you just don’t feel like praying?

 

Six weeks ago I fractured my right foot on vacation.  Being obstinate, I didn’t put a walking boot on for over 3 weeks.  However, when I finally went to the doctor he told me that I had to wear one in order for it to heal.

I have only one problem:  it’s my right foot.  The first time I tried to drive, I realized that this was not going to work.  So, I began driving with my left foot.  That was even scarier, you should try it some time.  It was so awkward and uncomfortable.  I was scared of making a mistake, so it took a lot of effort.  And many times, I just took the boot off and drove with my right foot because I just didn’t want to deal with it.

Well, after 3 weeks of working at it, I can say that driving with my left foot is pretty easy now.  And while I know many of you will be scared to meet me on the road somewhere, I am pretty comfortable with it.  I have read that it takes 3 weeks to form a new habit.  But 3 weeks is a long time to commit to doing something difficult.

Prayer can be like that, especially if you have never had a consistent prayer time.  It can be awkward, uncomfortable, and very easy to fall back into prayerlessness.  

And to be honest, sometimes, I just don’t feel like it.  Some times, I would rather just sleep in.

So I wonder, did Jesus ever have those issues?  And if He did, how did He deal with them?

I know what some of you are thinking, “He was Jesus.  He probably never had a problem praying.”  And quite possibly you are correct.  But I look at today’s scripture, and this is what I am thinking.

He got up before sunrise to go pray. That, in itself, is a challenge for most of us.   In other passages, however, you get the feeling that this was His habit.  However, if we read the passage immediately before this one, we see that the day before had been a really long and hard one.  He had been healing people all day.  It even said that most of the town gathered after sundown where He was to bring more sick and to watch more miracles.  So in my estimation, we were looking, at least, a 12-hour marathon of healing and ministering to people?  Maybe more?

Now, in the Methodist tradition, we believe that Jesus was fully God, but also fully man.  And I have to believe that the fully man part was really tired and worn out from being pulled in all those directions that day.  

But yet, probably on a day when He could have justified sleeping in, He still got up and had his prayer time.  Do you think He felt like it?  Or was He just doing it out of habit?

We will never know the answer to that question (this side of heaven anyway.)  But one thing I do believe is that, regardless of the reason, He did it and was probably blessed by it.

My experience has always been that if I push myself to pray, even if I don’t feel like it, God has an amazing way of touching me and making me glad I did.  See, He already knows my mind (don’t feel like it, Lord) but He also knows my heart (really want to connect with You, my King.)  And I think He truly appreciates my effort.  And He meets me wherever I am.  

What an awesome God we serve.  He not only meets me, but He blesses me too.  In all circumstances, my willingness and my resistance.

So I encourage you today, do yourself a favor.  If you don’t have a regular prayer habit, start today.  Commit to yourself that you are going to stay with a daily prayer time for 30 days.  It will be hard some days.  You won’t feel like it some days, but do it any way.  

I believe, that after the 30 days are up,  you will find that it is no longer a challenge, but something you look forward to.  I believe that the pure joy of being in His presence will be something that you find you don’t want to live without.  It can very easily become the anchor that holds your life together.

I very much look forward to hearing your stories.  Be Blessed!

PS – I am going to pray for each you these next 30 days – I promise.  Maybe you can pray that I will find the same joy in exercise!  (See, our relationships can be a win/win…:)

Gracious Lord,

Your peace flows over me like a river.  How is it, that I can experience so much of the fruit of our relationship, when I put so little into it?  You really do carry my burdens don’t you, Lord?

Today, I pray for your strength in my weakness.  Help me to be disciplined, when I have none under my own power.  

I also pray for all my friends out there who are working hard at creating a practice of daily prayer.  I ask that Your grace and mercy flow generously over them.  Because once they make the commit to try, don’t You think the enemy will throw all kinds of obstacles in their way?  So please protect them from any assaults, my King.  Pave a way, and make a path that is straight for each one.  Help every heart that is seeking You, to find itself fully in Your presence at every attempt.  For You are kind, and loving, and gracious.

In the name of Jesus I pray,

Amen

“I don’t know what to pray anymore…”

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” – Romans 8:26-27

Question for the Day:  What about when you don’t know what to pray?

I am 43 years old today.  And life is good.  In fact, this is my best birthday yet.  My life is great.  But it hasn’t always been so.  In another fact, I have spent several birthdays in the pit of despair because things in my life were so terrible.  

As I reflected on that this morning, I thanked God not only for today, but for all the times of distress that He was there as well.  

Have you ever had times like that?  Times when things were going so badly that you didn’t even know what to pray for?  I have had many.  But I thank God that I didn’t have to have eloquent words or well recited prayers.  He has promised that the Holy Spirit, who knows my heart, will pray for me.  What a relief.

We live in such a performance driven society that we don’t always quite understand the concept of grace.  Grace is God showering us with love even if we haven’t “earned it.”  I remember back to a challenging time I was having about 10 years ago.  My whole life was upside down and I could not deal with one more thing to concentrate on.

A kindly woman in my church invited me to a bible study.  My mind couldn’t make that kind of commitment; to show up every Wednesday night and pretend that I was enjoying myself.  SoI just said no.  Then she said something that has stayed with me all these years.  It changed the way I saw God.  She said,

“Sometimes we are called to work for God and give Him our best.  But sometimes He just calls us to come and let Him minister to us.  You don’t have to do anything else.  Just come and be loved.”

If you are in that place, or maybe you are praying for someone who is, don’t worry about “getting it right.”  Just show up, say nothing at all, and let the Spirit of God love you the way He longs to.

Peace my friends!

 

Heavenly Father,

Thank You that I can just be me when I am with You.  You know my heart, and You know my needs.  You are so kind not only to accept me when I am at my worst, but those times seem to be the ones when You love me the most.  

Help me just to trust You and Your infinite grace.  Help me to find peace in Your  presence, regardless of the storms swirling around me.  Lead me beside peaceful waters.

Help me to live into the fact that I am Your child, and You do not expect me to be perfect; for that is true grace.

In the name of the Lamb I pray,

Amen

“I don’t have time to pray today…”

“Be still, and know that I am God!” – Psalm 46:10

Question for the day:  Do you ever just have one of those days?

I have been doing so good this week.  I have gotten up early every day.  I have spent time in the presence of God.  Life has been so peaceful.

And then today happened.  I worked late last night, and I was tired.  So I overslept and was rushing to get to work on time.  And I have this big deadline today and I am not ready.  And my kids needed several things from me this morning, and my house was a wreck and the babysitter came and probably thought about calling DHR because we are living like animals, and I am starting school next week and I haven’t finished my assignments.  And oh yes, I have a date with my beloved tonight, and I want to be in a good mood for that (it would be nice to get a shower too…)  I have so many things going on:

I don’t have time to pray today!

Do you ever have days when you are so busy, and so many things are pressing down on you that you start looking for things to put off until tomorrow?  I don’t know about you, but being still and praying is always the first thing to go on my list (exercise is a close second!).  I hate to admit it, but it’s true.

I don’t know why that is my case.  I guess I could use the squeaky wheel excuse, because I have a lot of those.  But I think it just boils down to the fact that I am not very smart.  I mean, I have the ability to create peace for myself, and I think other things are more important.

I was reminded of that fact this morning by a quote from Bill Hybels in his book, “Too Busy Not To Pray.”

“Prayerless people cut themselves off from God’s peace and from His prevailing power; a common result is that they feel overwhelmed, overrun, beaten down, pushed around, and defeated by a world operating with a take-no-prisoners approach.”

That’s Me!

So when I got this reminder I just stopped.  I stopped what I was working on and just sat in the presence of the Lord.  It wasn’t easy, at first.  But after a few minutes, my mind calmed down and it was really good experience.  It is really nice just to let everything go and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you, even if it is just for a short while.

The issue, as I am coming to realize is one of trust.  If I stop for these few minutes, can I really  trust the Lord to help me accomplish all those things hammering for my attention?  We will see.  But the one thing that I am sure of is this:  Whether they all get taken care of, or not – my peace of mind and my heart rate are in much better shape to deal with them.  Thanks, Lord!

 

Good Shepherd,

Blessed are You.  For You are the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last.  Have mercy on me when I fail to acknowledge You.   You are so gracious.  The minute I call Your name, You are there.  What a mystery You are to me, since my first intentions today were to ignore You altogether.  I am continually made aware of my weaknesses, but also Your divine provisions.

Thank you, my King, for Your steadfast love for me.  Although I can’t fully understand it, You make me feel as though I am a great treasure to You.  I have no words for that…

In the name of my Strong Tower I pray,

Amen

“Too Busy Not To Pray,” is a classic in the area of developing a consistent prayer life.  I highly recommend it.  If you are interested in purchasing it, you can find it at the Liberty Crossings Amazon store:

http://astore.amazon.com/libecrosuni0a-20?_encoding=UTF8&node=2

Both the hard copy and the kindle version are available on this page.  Be blessed!

“Will You help me find it, Lord?”

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.” – Psalm 37:23-24

I read this Psalm this morning during my devotional time.  It further affirms what God is trying to teach me, that He is present in all things concerning me.  I don’t know if I would call myself, “godly” but I am definitely a believer and trying to do what is good in His eyes.

“Though they stumble” – I read this line and realize that He anticipates my failures.  It doesn’t say, “If they stumble.”  He knows that I am going to make mistakes.  And if I read this promise correctly, He is going to be there to catch me.

This makes sense to me as a parent, because that is the way that I look at my children too.  However, it also gives me great hope for the person I have chosen to pray for this month.  (I hope you are still praying on behalf of the person you chose at the beginning of the month.)

But the person I chose is so very far from God right now.  And I have been praying for God to breakthrough to him and to love him in a way that he will understand.  I am praising God today for teaching me that He is indeed close to this person, even if there is no outward evidence of it.  Even though this person chooses to have no relationship with Jesus, God still considers him one of His children.  He loves him, and is still watching over and calling his name.  What a good God we serve.

The following link is to a song that speaks deeply into my heart right now.  It is the best prayer I can imagine for those of us seeking the presence of our Lord.  I hope you have a chance to listen and let the words sink into your heart today.

“An Extraordinary Experience of God”

“…love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8

I had the most extraordinary experience with God this morning and just have to share it.  

I was out on my back deck, trying to practice the presence of God.  As I sat there, trying to clear my mind, I was overcome with all these memories; distractions I thought.  The odd thing about them was that they were all memories of bad things in my life: regrets, things I am ashamed of, words I wished I had never said, actions I wished I had never taken.

I thought to myself, “Why are all these awful things coming to mind?  I am here to be with God!”  So I would try to center myself again and get rid of these uncomfortable thoughts so I could be free to hear all the wonderful things God wanted to say to me.

After several attempts, I was defeated.  These memories (most of them painful and embarrassing) took over my thoughts and I was powerless to expel them.  They began to run through my mind like one of those old “highlights films.”  But yet, mine would  have been called, “Lana’s Worst Moments.”  It was horrible.

But then something amazing happened.  As I watched the events roll over in my mind, I found myself saying, “Boy, you really pulled me out of the fire that time, Lord.” Or, “Man, that could have ended so much worse.”

And as I looked more closely at the images, I saw a presence.  I cannot describe it here, but if you want to hear more about it come and talk to me.  But this presence was there in each scene.  It was unlike anything I have seen before, but I immediately recognized it to be the presence of God.  He was there, in every terrible and embarrassing moment.  He was there in the midst of every sin I have committed and every hurt I have inflicted on others.  

You would think I would have been mortified.  But it was just the opposite.  I saw grace enveloping me, like a mist.  It was incredible.  I tangibly felt grace falling on me.  It was an experience I will never forget.  The emotions, the visual, the sensation of it on my skin – it was truly life-changing.  I felt loved.

And this was my “Aha moment.”  The truth is, I have never appreciated God’s grace fully, because I have never admitted the depth of my sin.  I have been a believer in Christ for many years.  And I have intellectually called myself a sinner, but I have never really owned up to those specific instances in which I willfully engaged in sinful behavior.  Why?  Because I wanted to keep up the charade, that although I believe Christ died for my sins, I was still a really good person.

Don and I were laughing last night at this statement from St. Augustine:

“I had no motive for my sin except sin itself.  I loved it.  I loved the self-destruction… I loved my fall as my depraved soul leaped into ruin.”

It is only in the light of the morning that I can see that I am the same.

If St. Augustine’s 4th century language does not resonate with you, let’s try a more contemporary figure.  I quote a modern cultural icon, Eric Cartman,

“I do what I want.”

The truth is, the human condition is is true of us all.  I will always seek my own self-indulgence before I seek the Holiness of God.  I am Augustine, I am Eric Cartman, I am a sinner.

But the great news is:  I am also a new creation in Christ.  His grace has justified me in the eyes of the Lord.  I can walk away from those regretted instances, and live a life renewed with my slate wiped clean.

I am still living with the consequences of some of those bad decisions, and that grieves my heart.  It is an inescapable fact of life.  But I know that God has forgotten them, because of Jesus. And I know that I am fully loved and forgiven.  I am free to live today as a child of grace.  

Boy, I can’t wait to hear what He has to say tomorrow.

Gracious Lord,

You are holy.  And You are righteous.  Your grace flows over me like a river.  I rejoice in the Lord of my salvation.  For in You, there is no condemnation; only mercy.  I have done nothing to deserve this gift for which I am so grateful.  But that is the whole point, isn’t it, my Lord.  Thank you is not sufficient, but it is all I have.  Please accept my grateful heart, and lead me down the paths of life-everlasting.

In the name of Jesus I pray,

Amen

A Prayer Request

Hi Friends,

Our College Nicaragua Team will be leaving on their mission on Saturday August 3.  If you will, please consider sending some notes of encouragement and prayers.  I know it really means a great deal to our young folks to know that they are covered in the prayers of their church family.

The list of missionaries is below and notes can be left in the basket on Sharon Chappell’s desk at the church.

Thanks so much.

Kendra Bridgham
Lydia Chappell
Lindsey Comas
Brad Gosdin
Will Gosdin
Wade Griffith
Nate Hall
Zach Miller
David Sanderlin
Jason Smith