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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Some time ago, wise-and-insightful blogger Michele Morin (at Living Our Days) shared that she was journaling through some of the old hymns. I imagined her digging into the meaning of some of the rich language and theology, personalizing the truths, and/or using them as the basis for prayer.

Putting pen or pencil to paper in such a way slows down our thinking, allowing wonderful blessings to emerge:

  • Increased knowledge of God and his Word
  • Clarity of understanding
  • A record of discoveries
  • A record of faith deposits for later encouragement
  • Renewal of the mind
  • Augmented intimacy with God

If writing a meditation sounds intimidating, adopt the attitude of Isaac Asimov:

“Writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers.”

Isaac Asimov

For Christian journalers, writing can be worshiping through our fingers.

But how do we even begin such a process? Try Anne Sexton’s approach:

When we invite Jesus into our lives, the Spirit of God takes up residence within our spirits (1). We can put our ears down close to our souls and listen hard for him to guide our thoughts and lead us to the insights he would have us discover.

And then, we fill our pages with the breathings of our hearts (2).

The following is an example of a journal entry, based on the first verse of the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”(3). The next four images contain the lyrics.

You, oh God, are the Source of every blessing—every provision, every answered prayer, every wise decision, every creative idea, every moment of joy. All good and perfect gifts come from you (4).

Out of your lavish generosity, blessings flow continually from your hand. May I be quick to praise you for each one as they demonstrate your lovingkindness.

This fount of blessing includes your mercy also. I praise you for your forgiveness, undeserving as I am. Thank you for looking upon me with compassion and tenderness in spite of my weaknesses, failures, and sins.

And I praise you that your mercy never ends! You are faithful to forgive me every time I come to you in repentance. Such grace is beyond comprehension. Yes, I want to sing songs of loudest praise, to honor you rightly for all you’ve done for me and continue to do.

Perhaps if I had the voice of an angel and knew the songs of heaven I could sing the full praise you deserve!

Nevertheless, I celebrate your name(s)—Shepherd, Lord of Peace, God of Grace, Father of Compassion and more. I glory in all the attributes indicated by each one. And I remember: the one trait that is part of them all: your unfailing love.

Thank you for loving me, in spite of my shortcomings; thank you for redeeming me from the consequences of my sins so I might enjoy you forever!

Should you decide to journal through a hymn or praise song, remember: perfection is not the goal, getting to know God better and worship him more passionately are the aims.

An added benefit? Our meditations will positively impact our words and actions (5).

Notes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 3:16
  2. based on a quote from William Wordsworth
  3. by Robert Robinson, text adapted by Margaret Clarkson
  4. James 1:17
  5. Joshua 1:8

Photo credits: http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.flicker.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org.

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Fitness experts will tell you, strong core muscles of the mid-section greatly enhance your physical well-being, contributing to stability that prevents falls, minimization of strain that causes pain, as well as effective breathing that optimizes oxygen flow.

When core strength is absent, a person is likely to:

  • have difficulty getting up from a chair without leverage
  • struggle to bend down and tie his shoes
  • find himself slouching
  • lose his balance
  • experience back pain

But it’s never too late to reverse such ills. Those same fitness experts recommend exercises: crunches, planks, and bridges—to name a few—although just a brisk walk engages core muscles and contributes to strength.

Of course, even more important than our physical fitness is spiritual strength, which raises a new question:

How strong is your core–of the soul?

Just as we can identify symptoms of physical weakness, we can identify soul-weakness when challenge mires us in such thoughts as: Why me? This is so unfair. If God cared, this wouldn’t be happening.

However, it’s never too late to reverse such ills. Our spiritual Fitness Expert, God himself, has provided exercises to strengthen our souls, including:

Bible Meditation

More than just reading a passage, meditation includes taking to heart God’s Word and responding personally.

For example, how might you respond to Psalm 147:5, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit?”

Perhaps your response would be similar to my own.

I praise you, O God, for your omnipotent power. Nothing is impossible for you (Luke 18:27)! Just that knowledge alone can settle my anxious heart and foster sweet hope.

I praise you also for your unlimited understanding. You are a God of infinite wisdom and you generously offer to bestow wisdom to me–if I just ask (James 1:5).

Thank you for coming alongside, ever-ready to expend your power and wisdom for my good. You are a gracious God beyond what anyone could hope for!

Such an exercise develops the muscle of faith, contributes to stability of soul, and helps prevent falls into worry and fear.

Positive Prayer

Even the tone of my prayers can impact soul-strength. If I focus on the problem, the emotional pain is likely to remain:

Lord, I don’t know what we’re going to do. I keep trying various scenarios in my mind but there seems no way out of these circumstances. You’ve got to help us, although I don’t see how. What a mess!  

On the other hand, if I focus on God’s attributes at work and his promises that apply, the strain of the situation diminishes:

“I praise and thank you, Father, that I have no reason to fear. You’ve given our family the promise that you’ll fight for us; all we have to do is stand firm and see your salvation (Exodus 14:13-14). YOU are our strength, providing the wherewithal to rectify this situation. YOU are our very present help in this time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).

As positivity is expressed in our prayers, the spiritual muscle of hope develops.

Gratitude & Joy

It stands to reason: if we focus on the problems surrounding us, discouragement will weaken our spirits.

But if we focus on all the good things flowing to us from God’s loving heart, we’ll find plenty to be joyful about. It’s just a matter of engaging our praise and gratitude muscles.

Most sets of the physical exercises I do each morning include twenty repetitions. I wonder if we could name twenty of God’s attributes, providing twenty reasons to be joyful in him?

Skim through the psalms with me, and let’s see what we find:

1. Watchfulness (1:6)

2. Righteousness (5:8)

3. Protection (5:11)

4. Encouragement (10:17)

5. Unfailing love (13:5)

6. Security (16:5)

7. Perfect ways (18:30)

8. Victorious power (20:6)

9. Goodness (25:8)

10. Uprightness (25:8)

11. Faithful ways (25:10)

12. Strength (28:8)

13. Splendorous holiness (29:2)

14. Justice (36:6)

15. Ever-present help (46:1)

16. Guidance (48:14)

17. Great compassion (51:1)

18. Power (62:11)

19. Forgiveness (65:3)

20. Sovereignty (71:16)

We did it—and long before reaching the end of Psalms!

Do you find the strain on your spirit relaxing, just in reviewing his surpassing greatness?  Is renewed strength, stability, hope, and joy flowing into your soul?

Keep up those soul-core exercises!

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; pxhere.com.

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(a personalized psalm, based on Psalm 143)

O Lord, we are in serious trouble as a nation.  Selfish gain and a lust for power have taken precedence over the common good.  E pluribus unum is deteriorating into tribalism; “In God We Trust” is being replaced by “In US We Trust.”

Have mercy upon us, O God!  Our arch enemy Satan is wreaking havoc across our land; numerous problems vie for attention. Among them: soaring crime rates in our cities, increasing drug addiction and homelessness, failing schools, mounting national debt, escalating inflation, and threats to our national security.

If I focus on these monumental problems, my spirit is overwhelmed, my heart overcome with dismay (2).

BUT!  THIS I KNOW:

You are a faithful God who never leaves his children to fend for themselves.  You never forget, never fail, and never falter (3).

I KNOW you are a righteous God of complete integrity and consistency, always acting in accordance to the perfections of your character, always at the right time.

I KNOW you are a reliable God.  Scripture, history, the lives of present-day saints, and events in my own life provide countless examples of your miraculous care for your children.  As I consider all your hands have accomplished my spirit is lifted, my faith increased.

There is no trouble so great, no situation so hopeless that you cannot resolve it.  If you do not provide rescue, you supply ample strength and courage to endure.  Even more wondrous, during times of distress you grant heightened awareness of your glorious presence, your infinite peace, and radiant joy.

Therefore, I not only cry out for rescue from ruin; I cry out for you.  Like a little child who raises her hands for a loved one to pick her up and hold her close, I desire intimacy with you, the only One who can help me and keep me from falling (4).

I KNOW you are a loving God of never-failing devotion. I can trust you for guidance and support, whatever the future holds.  And as I bask in the warmth of your lavish love, anxiety and fear will melt away.  Your love is active, seeking my good more than my pleasure, working toward my divine transformation more than my comfort. And as your wisdom grows within me, I see the supreme value of the former over the latter.

I KNOW you are my God.  I’m in awe that you, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, are my Heavenly Father! You are the almighty One leading everything to the conclusion you ordained before time began–by the same power, wisdom, and love with which you made it (4). Yet in spite of that power, in spite of your perfection and majestic glory, you desire to be my constant Companion and Friend. 

So I humbly ask:

Hear me as I pray (v. 1). 

Show me the way I should go (v. 8).

Hide me in you (v. 9).

Teach me and lead me (v. 10).

Bring me out of trouble and into the shelter of your refuge  (v. 11; Psalm 46:1-3).

For America I pray we’d corporately look to you for the way we should go. Bring us out of our troubles and rescue us from our enemies, including those that war within the spirit.  Preserve us, I pray (vs. 9, 11).

Amen.

Notes:

  1. Psalm 143:4 AMP and HCSB
  2. A. W. Pink
  3. Psalm 54:4 CEV
  4. Julian of Norwich

Photo credits: http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.depositphotos.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.pixabaycom; http://www.dailyverses.net (3); http://www.wikimedia.com.

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This quote became the basis for a post in September 2017 titled Expect Great Things.  At the time Murray’s words were speaking new encouragement into my prayer life.  I copied the quote on a 3 x 5 and have kept it in my prayer box ever since.

Now four years later, I must confess my worship of God in his glory has become a bit stale.  I find myself using the same words to repeat such attributes as:  his wisdom to solve problems, his goodness to provide blessing, and his power to generate miracles. My loving Father deserves so much more than rote repetition.

Then a new idea occurred to me, likely inspired by the Spirit himself.  What if I devoted each day of the week to a different aspect of God’s glory?  And what if I prepared a separate page in my quiet time notebook for each attribute and began collecting appropriate scriptures, quotes, personal thoughts—different praise-starters for each day so my worship might remain fresh?

To that end, I chose the following attributes to focus on first:

  • Sunday—God’s power and greatness
  • Monday—God’s splendorous names
  • Tuesday—God’s wisdom and counsel
  • Wednesday—God’s love
  • Thursday—God’s faithfulness
  • Friday—God’s goodness
  • Saturday—God’s grace and compassion

To keep this post of reasonable length, I’ll just include what I’ve collected so far for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Sunday—God’s power and greatness

  • Scripture:  “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness (Psalm 150:2).  What acts of God’s power and greatness have I witnessed or heard about recently?
  • Quote:  “When we are facing the impossible, we can count upon the God of the impossible” (Amy Carmichael).  Praise him for several impossibilities miraculously rendered—perhaps a need met, a problem rectified, a healing provided.  
  • Prayer starter: I praise you, O God, for the magnificence of your power—to create everything in the universe out of nothing, to keep it all functioning smoothly, to be present everywhere at the same time, to bring good out of every situation for those who love you, to change lives for the better, . . .  

Monday—God’s splendorous names and titles

Scripture: “Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore” (Psalm 113:2).  Choose one or two to focus on each Monday.

  • Prayer starter for one name:  I praise you Jehovah-Nissi, The Lord My Banner. You are my focal point of hope and encouragement for every situation. How comforting to know that all of your attributes are always at work on behalf of your people.  I praise you for your marvelous promises of strength, provision, wisdom, and peace. . .

Tuesday—God’s wisdom and counsel

  • Scripture: “I will bless the Lord who has counseled me” (Psalm 16:7a NIV).  How has he counseled me recently as well as others?
  • Quote:  Praise God that his “infinite wisdom directs every event, brings order out of confusion, and light out of darkness, and, to those who love God, causes all things, whatever be their present aspect and apparent tendency, to work together for good”—J. L. Dagg.  Such glorious truths to hold close at heart! What else might I add?
  • Prayer Starter:  I also praise you, O God, for the gift of scripture to guide us through life with your truth and wisdom.  I praise you for your Holy Spirit who increases our understanding and enlightens our souls.  You never turn away anyone who seeks your wisdom! . . .

And what will be the result of such worship that enthusiastically affirms God’s transcendence?  Transformation—transformation of our prayers, transformation of our lives.

.

Nothing we do is more powerful

or more life-changing than praising God.

— Stormie Omartian

*from The Power of God’s Names

Image credits: http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pxfuel.com.

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You, O Spirit of God, have made me. Your breath has indeed given me life—physically and spiritually. Just as a deep breath of fresh air refreshes the body, so a deep breath of your Spirit and all your benefits rejuvenates my soul:

I can breathe in your BLESSINGS.

“Every day is a treasure box of gifts from you, waiting to be opened”—gifts like wisdom to choose what’s best, grace to forgive all wrongs, and peace that transcends understanding.[1]

I can breathe in your RESTORATION. 

“You are the divine Gardener, perfect at the task of transforming withered trees”—trees withered by discouragement, trouble, and pain. 

You renew me day by day, refreshing my weary soul with your Word and your presence.[2]

I can breathe in the truth of your EXCELLENCIES. 

Attentive living provides the opportunity to discover the golden threads of your perfections woven into common, everyday experience. 

I see your love expressed in a rainbow, your grace in a stranger’s smile, your wisdom on a page, your joy in a butterfly’s dance, your peace in a sunset. [3]

I can breathe in the comfort of your AUTHORITY. 

“[You are] the stage manager in control of all players on the stage.”  You are ordering events to the conclusion you ordained before time began—by your power over all things, your wisdom in all matters, and out of love for all people.[4]

I can breathe in your TRUTH. 

“The Bible is an armory of heavenly weapons, a laboratory of infallible medicines, a mine of exhaustless wealth.  It is a guidebook for every road, a chart for every sea, a medicine for every malady, a balm for every wound.”

These statements only begin to name the benefits of your Word.  The more time I spend absorbing its truths, the more time I want to spend.  “I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great treasure.”[5]

I can breathe in your ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE. 

All the difficulties of life I can view as slight, temporary distresses that are producing a transcendent Glory never to cease.

“The joys of heaven will surely compensate for the sorrows of earth.  This world is but a narrow span, and we will soon have passed it.  Time, how short—eternity, how long!  Death, how brief—immortality, how endless!” [6]

As tensions increase around us and around the world,

may I continually BREATHE in the realities of your . . .

B lessing

R estoration

E xcellencies

A uthority

T ruth

H ealing and

E ternal perspective . . .

. . . so that I’m refreshed and strengthened to be for the praise of your glory (Ephesians 1:11-12).


[1] Psalm 68:19; quote from Joan Clayton

[2] Isaiah 40:29-31; quote from Henry Drummond; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Jeremiah 31:25

[3] Deuteronomy 32:4

[4] Psalm 22:27-28; quote from Alice Mathews in A Woman God Can Use, p. 77; Proverbs 16:4; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Romans 11:33; John 3:16

[5] Psalm 119:160; quote from Thomas Guthrie; Psalm 119:162 AMP

[6] 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Corinthians 4:17 AMP; quote from Charles Spurgeon

Photo credits: http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com’ http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.canva.com

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If you’ve ever weeded an early spring garden, you know how tricky it can be to sort seedlings from weedlings.

In the garden of the mind mentioned in the above poem, the weeds of lies can be particularly difficult to recognize—such lies as these:

 

1. God can’t possibly love me because I mess up all the time.

The problem is we think God sees us the same way critical people do—like the spinster great-aunt who looked down her nose at energetic children, like the teacher who frequently criticized, or the boss who was never satisfied.

That’s not God.

He knows we’re incapable of perfection and looks upon us with the compassion of a loving father.  No matter the sin, God is always ready to forgive (1)–and forget–as we repent:

 

 

 

Take this to heart: “Our God has a big eraser!”–Bill Zeoli (2).

And we can use that big eraser of love, compassion, and forgiveness to erase Lie #1.

 

2. I am insignificant.

God would have us know:  “There is no such thing as an insignificant person or an insignificant place or an insignificant position” (3).

Take a refresher course on your status:

  • The Prince of Peace died for you.
  • The King of glory is always thinking about you.
  • You have been adopted into his royal family.
  • You can enter his throne room whenever you like.
  • Your work has been specifically commissioned by the Sovereign Lord of the universe (4).

 

 

We run into trouble when we start comparing ourselves to others. Here’s what we need to affirm: “My significance is not based on what I do; it is based on Whose I am.”

 

3. It’s obvious my prayers don’t matter…

A.  …because there’s been no answer. 

Here’s a thought:

 

 

But there are a number of possibilities why prayers seem to go unanswered, including:

  • Unbeknownst to us, the answer has already come. A young man praying for a wife may already have met his future bride; he just doesn’t know it.
  • Sometimes God gives us what we need, not simply what we ask for. A young teen might pray that her family not have to move across state, but five years later, ends up earning a much-needed college scholarship from their new church.
  • We benefit from the spiritual discipline of asking, growing in faith, and persevering as we wait.

If our God is 100% good—and he is—then it follows:

 

 

B. …Almighty God doesn’t need me to accomplish his plans.

 You’re right; God can do anything he pleases—without us.

But he instituted prayer as a way for us to come alongside him and participate in the good purposes he’s ordained. He allows us to share in the release of his power as we intercede for one another.

Lord Tennyson spoke of the power of prayer in his poem, Idylls of the King:

 

 

One day we’ll know the magnitude of the exact number. And won’t it be satisfying to have participated in God’s monumental work?

 

_______________________________________

 

Now that we’ve removed these three weed-lies from the gardens of our minds, we can enjoy to the fullest these flowers of God’s truth:

He remembers our sins no more.

We are precious in his eyes.

He always responds to our prayers (5).

 

Notes:

  1. Psalm 103:13-14, 3, 10.
  2. Quoted in Quote/Unquote, compiled by Lloyd Cory, Victor Press, 1977, 121.
  3. Anne Graham Lotz, The Vision, of His Glory, Word Publishing, 1996, 77.
  4. Isaiah 9:6; 1 John 4:9-10; Psalm 139:17; Ephesians 1:5; 1 Peter 3:12; Ephesians 2:10.
  5. Isaiah 43:25; 43:4; Psalm 102:17.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.com.

 

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Oh, no. Where’s the cream? A thorough search of the fridge had just revealed an inconvenient truth. I’d forgotten to purchase the whipping cream.

With dinner guests arriving in a few hours, and three little ones underfoot, I dreaded the thought of packing everybody into the car to purchase one item at the grocery store. Besides, the to-do list still included many tasks. What’s a woman to do?

Call her husband.

“I’m so sorry to bother you, but could you stop at the store on your way home from the office and pick up some whipping cream? I need it for tonight’s dessert, and somehow came home without it yesterday.”

“Sure, I can do that,” he replied. “No problem.”

Two hours later Steve walked in the door, cream in hand.

I knew I could count on him; he’d proven himself trustworthy countless times before. (Even if he’d forgotten, Steve would have gone back to the store and made good on his promise.)

So why is it, when God says, “What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do” (Isaiah 46:11b), my response is sometimes doubt?

 

 

Of course, the promises I ask God to fulfill usually require more than two hours of wait time. It’s in the long siege on pause I begin to wonder: Maybe this promise that seemed so perfect for my situation isn’t really for me after all (1).

Have such thoughts occurred to you also?

Here’s what I’m trying to remember: If I trust Steve, based on promises he’s kept in the past, how much more should I take God at his word?

 

 

In addition, he is perfect in all his ways, loving and compassionate, abundantly good and righteous (2).  Our faith in God’s promises can remain firm because:

 

 

So as I wait for fulfillment, I can remember: out of the several thousand promises in scripture, he has already kept many of them in specific, personal ways.

He’s done the same for you too.

It would be impractical to make a list here of all those Bible promises, checking them off one by one as we remember occasions when each was fulfilled. But what if we identify categories, and check off those? Categories such as:

  • Salvation and the gift of eternal life (John 6:40)
  • A relationship with God Almighty and his continual presence (Revelation 3:20; Psalm 145:18)
  • Forgiveness (1 John 1:9)
  • Emotional stability (Psalm 27:1), peace ((Isaiah 26:3), and joy (John 15:11)

 

 

  • Protection (Psalm 32:7)
  • Provision (Philippians 4:19)
  • Guidance (Isaiah 58:11)
  • Satisfaction in life (John 10:10)

 

 

  • Help (Psalm 46:1)
  • Answered prayer (1 John 5:14-15)
  • Blessings (Psalm 84:11-12)

 

No doubt all of us can name events when such promises have been fulfilled—the day we said yes to Jesus, the times we experienced an unearthly reassurance of God’s presence, or received miraculous provision, enjoyed divine contentment, felt his inexplicable peace, and more.

In remembering we foster the courage to persevere and the faith to hope with confident expectation.

So what event, what answer to prayer are you hoping for today? Can you identify an appropriate promise? The scriptures above offer a place to start. And then let’s pray our promises.

 

 

For example:

I praise You, O God, for your promise of protection from trouble. Not that I expect to never experience difficulty, but I can count on You to guard me as we pass through it.

 As long as the trouble may last, you will be with me, to shelter me in your comfort and be my helper through the challenge. Never will you abandon me; I am secure in you.

I look forward, Father, to every statement here coming to fruition, because you have said it. My heart is steadfast, trusting in you.

 

(Psalm 32:7; James 1:2-4; Psalm 23:4; 9:9; 34:19;

Hebrews 13:6; Proverbs 14:26, Psalm 112:7)

 

 

What is a favorite scripture promise you turn to again and again?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Sometimes there are good reasons why promises are not fulfilled.  See “Unfulfilled Promises” for several possibilities.
  2. Psalm 18:30; Psalm 103:4; Psalm 145:7, 17

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.canva.com (3); http://www.needpix.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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With Advent near the surface of my thinking these days, I was primed to notice a new-to-me phenomenon in the word adventure.

It begins with Advent!

I don’t know how I’ve missed that similarity before. But once the word-within-a-word jumped out at me, I began to wonder: Are the two words related or is it just coincidence? Might there be significance to the similarity?

Research uncovered several interesting insights.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Advent as “the arrival of a notable person or thing.” It comes to us from Latin; ad- means “to” and venire means “come” (1).

 

 

Adventure refers to an undertaking that may involve danger and unknown risks, and/or an exciting or remarkable experience (2).

Etymologically the words are more like distant cousins than siblings. But they do come together at Christ’s advent into the world—and in our individual lives—because he does offer grand adventure—the adventure of faith.

Mary certainly chose such an adventure as Gabriel announced she would conceive the Son of God. “I am the Lord’s servant,” she affirmed. “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

Joseph also stepped into the adventure of the Messiah’s birth, risking the derision of his community (Matthew 1:18-25).  If his neighbors didn’t know it yet, they’d learn soon enough that his betrothed was pregnant.

 

 

Neither Joseph nor Mary knew the dangers they’d face (including King Herod’s paranoia) and the uncertainties of parenting the perfect Son of God who would be misunderstood, scorned, and even murdered.

For their adventure, the shepherds ignored the first rule of sheep-tending: never leave the flock to fend for themselves. Instead, these men  threw caution to the wind and participated in a remarkable experience. They were among the first to see the long-anticipated Christ Child (Luke 2:8-18).

The wise men most likely adventured for two years, traveling to Judea from Babylon or Persia in order to worship the newborn King (Matthew 2:1-12). Imagine the stories of danger, risk, and astonishment they had to tell.

 

 

And now it’s our turn to choose. Will we step into the adventure of faith as they did—not knowing exactly what will happen and not being in control?

Yes, we might encounter danger or risk, but we are also guaranteed remarkable experiences, including:

  • Being used by God for eternal good, as we offer ourselves as his servants, just like Mary did.
  • Becoming the best version of ourselves as God works within us, developing our character and maturity (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • Looking for the miracle-drenched moments—taking holy delight in the ordinary (Psalm 40:5).
  • Getting acquainted with the Bible, finding sincere pleasure in knowing God’s Word. The more we know him, the more we love him, and the more wonder we experience (Psalm 112:1).
  • Participating in God’s work through prayer (James 5:16b).

 

 

Two years ago our son and daughter-in-law gave us three wooden Christmas ornaments, created by a girl overseas. We’ll call her Kiana. Kiana works in a factory run by a missionary couple sent out from our church.

On the tag attached to the ornaments was Kiana’s name and picture. Her sparkling eyes and joyous smile grabbed my heart and seemed to indicate Kiana just might know Jesus.

I began to pray for this young woman on a regular basis, thanking God for his promised provision and protection over her. I asked God to honor Kiana, bringing her to Jesus if she did not know him yet, and using her to impact others if she was already a believer.

Not long ago, those missionaries came home on furlough. I had the chance to ask about Kiana and learned she is a sweet Christian and even leads a Bible study.

My eyes filled with tears as I realized the privilege God had given me, to participate with him in the work he’s doing half-way around the world—through the adventure of prayer.

 

(One of the ornaments created by Kiana)

 

‘You see how gracious God is? Advent is only the beginning. The joy of this season can become an extended adventure that unfolds day after day, year after year, as we make ourselves available to him.

And that’s not all. The remarkable experience of heaven is yet to come.

The question is: will we embrace the adventure that begins with Advent, or will we withdraw?

 

Notes:

  1. https://www.europelanguagejobs.com/blog/turning_advent_into_adventure.php
  2. Mirriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, 2001.

 

Photo and art credits:  http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.com (painting by James Tissot); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; Nancy Ruegg

 

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(from https://quotefancy.com)

 

Heaven to our souls.

Sounds glorious, doesn’t it? No stress, no pain, no enigmas.

But on any given day, doubt and worry crowd heaven out:

  • When will God answer our prayer? And what if it’s not the answer we’re hoping for?
  • Where is God? Why doesn’t he come to our rescue?
  • Did I miss his guidance?

Such questions have plagued us all at sometime or other. But watch the saints of great faith. You’ll see men and women who demonstrate considerable confidence and assurance with negligible doubt and worry.

 

 

Their great faith isn’t just happenstance. Observe closely and you’ll note various habits of those saints—habits we’d do well to adopt:

To begin, Ask God for more faith. Such an obvious step; so easy to overlook. Yet it’s a request God surely delights to fulfill (1).

Affirm the truths and promises of the Bible. Soak up its wisdom, examples, and encouragement (2)—daily.

Pray about everything to ward off the worry. Write down requests, leaving room to record answers. As visible evidence of God’s faithfulness increases, so will our faith in him.

Twenty years ago I switched from using a prayer list to writing requests on 3 x 5s. They offer more room to note progress and resolutions when they come. I’ve kept the cards as concrete proof of God’s faithfulness.

Here’s the 3″ stack of answered prayers so far.  (Some cards contain multiple concerns and answers.):

 

 

Granted, God has not fulfilled every request to my preference. Instead, he did what was right, according to his infallible wisdom and far-reaching purpose (3)—and for that I’m most grateful.

Thank God—in advance—for his responses to prayer. “There is nothing that so fully solidifies faith as being so sure of the answer that you can thank God for it” (Rev. Charles Henry Parkhurst, 1842-1933).

In addition, praise God for his power at work, even though there’s no evidence yet (4).

 

 

Envision the outcome, perhaps something like this:

 It breaks our hearts, Father, to see _______________ suffer because of health issues, a dysfunctional family, and financial pressures. We put our hope in you, our Great Physician, the Prince of Peace, and the Lord who Provides. We look forward to the day when physical limitations are removed, family members respond to your Spirit, and miraculous provision eases her financial burden. We praise you in advance, knowing you are already at work to bless ________________.  Amen! 

Surround yourself with other believers in pursuit of great faith. “Iron sharpens iron” (5); faith-seekers sharpen faith-seekers–with their support, challenge, and encouragement.

 

 

Adopt faith-building practices. For example, post encouraging scriptures around the house. One useful spot is the bathroom mirror. While face-washing and teeth-brushing, recite faith-enhancing words from the Bible.

 

 

Expect your faith to be tested. Just as our physical bodies require strenuous exercise for optimum health, so does our faith. It’s the difficulties of life that provide it.

“Faith untried is simply a promise and a possibility,” said Oswald Chambers. “Tried faith is pure gold.”

~  ~  ~ ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

These seven habits will produce great faith, which in turn bring heaven of the soul.

 And what might heaven of the soul include? Three elements make my short-list:

  • Peace

As we pour out our concerns in prayer, God pours in his peace—peace so profound it transcends all understanding (6).

 

 

  • Joy

Author and life coach Paul Sailhamer offers this definition of joy born out of great faith: “Joy is that deep settled confidence that God is in control of every area of my life.” Such joy provides rock-solid strength, not shaken by circumstances.

  • Optimism

People of great faith focus on the positive, affirm God will bring good out of every situation, and look forward with eager anticipation to see what God will do (7).

Imagine the interior of your soul filled with the ambiance of peace, the beauty of joy, and the golden light of optimism. Sound heavenly?

 

 

Great faith makes it happen.

 

What habits of faith-filled people have you noticed?  Or, what habits do you personally practice that build confidence in God?  Please share your observation/experience in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. Matthew 21:22
  2. Romans 10:17
  3. Romans 11:33-36
  4. Hebrews 11:1
  5. Proverbs 27:17
  6. Philippians 4:6-7
  7. Philippians 4:8; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 3:20

 

Photo credits:  http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.jble.af.mil; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pxhere.com.

 

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Emily* and I met at a meeting, and afterward the subject of the Bible came into the conversation—a conversation that went something like this:

“The Bible is just fairy tales,” she declared.

“That is a popular viewpoint,” I replied. “How did you come to that conclusion?”

“Well, it’s full of crazy, unbelievable stories,” Emily asserted passionately. “Noah and the ark, David and Goliath, not to mention Jesus and his supposed miracles. Who in their right mind would believe such stuff?”

 

 

I began to pray silently as our conversation continued. Lord, help me speak your words.  May Emily reconsider her position and seek truth.

“I agree such events seem incredible,” I offered. “But I’ve come to believe the Biblical record is truth, backed up by decades of archaeological research, hundreds of ancient manuscripts—including the Dead Sea Scrolls, and dozens of scientific and medical corroborations. Also, numerous prophecies have been fulfilled with amazing accuracy. I can recommend some books written by experts if you’d like to know more.”

But Emily became defensive, insisting such proofs were either coincidental or made up by misled people determined to keep the fairy tales alive.

 

(The Ark Encounter at the Creation Museum, Petersburg, KY)

 

The conversation did not end well. Emily only became more vehement so I let her have the last word and bowed out as gracefully as I could. It felt like failure. Somehow in spite of my prayer, I must not have spoken God’s words for her.

Since that encounter, however, I’ve come to realize:

We can trust God with our words if we’re seeking his wisdom (James 1:5) and speaking in love (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Remember what God told Moses, upon commissioning the wilderness shepherd to be his voice to Pharaoh?

 

 

It would stand to reason that with God teaching him exactly what to say, Moses would eloquently convince Pharaoh to release the Israelites on the first encounter.

Instead, Moses had to confront Pharaoh numerous times. Even a constant barrage of plagues didn’t deter Pharaoh from refusing Moses’ request—until every firstborn son died in every Egyptian household, including Pharaoh’s. The hard-hearted ruler was brought low by grief, and finally let the Israelites go.

Does such a record indicate that God’s words through Moses failed repeatedly? NO. God had his reason for the delay:

 

Then the Lord said to Moses,

“Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart…

so that I may perform these signs of mine among them

that you may tell your children and grandchildren

how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians

and how I performed my signs among them,

and that you may know that I am the Lord.”

–Exodus 10:1-2 NIV

 

 

These verses offer me great comfort for my conversation with Emily and others. I can trust God with the words I prayerfully spoke to her that day. They may have caused one more chink in her wall of defense against Christianity, so that she will one day know “that [he] is the Lord” and accept Jesus as Savior.

Such prayers are the kind God especially loves to answer.

 

 

 

What could be closer to God’s heart than the eternal destiny of one of his children?

Perhaps Emily will contact me one day and say, “I remembered what you said about the Bible and it got me to thinking…”

So I continue to pray.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

As I submit myself to you, O God, may my words be characterized by your wisdom that gently persuades and winsome grace that draws people to you–all from a heart motivated by love.  Then may your words echo in the minds of those who hear until doubt is transformed into faith.     

 

*Name changed.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.dailyverses.net(2).

 

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